New Zealand will field a side that is far from their No 1 combination as they seek to shake off the cobwebs in the Oceania Under 20 series opener tomorrow on the Gold Coast.
There is, however, plenty of talent and pedigree within the squad, which should win comfortably against an unknown quantity Fiji outfit, playing this event for the first time after two years of two standalone New Zealand-Australia clashes. The New Zealand Under 20 coaching staff will be seeking a win and a performance they can build on as they count down to the World Rugby Under 20 championship in Georgia in just under five weeks' time.
Head coach Craig Philpott says the team is bonding nicely.
"We've had some challenges coming over, with a couple of late changes and replacements, but the group is gelling really well and enjoying each other's company," he says, alluding to the fact that Wellington prop Alex Fidow was replaced due to injury by Auckland's Rob Cobb.
"The Oceania tournament provides the first taste of international test match rugby for several of the players, and offers a good step up for them. We've had All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster in camp with us for the last three days, which has inspired the team, and he offered plenty of good advice in training for the boys.
"When selecting the starting teams for this tournament we want to give everyone an equal shot at game time, to test some different combinations and cement our game plan for the World Championship in June. All the guys will either get a start or come off the bench over the three games.
"This Fijian side is an unknown quantity to us. However, it's probable they will want to keep the ball alive and not kick too much, play with flair and want to attack. We think we have the combinations to counter the strengths of the opposition.
"For this tournament, we have set ourselves a couple of simple goals around attack and defence. We want to embed the patterns that we have been working on in our earlier camps in New Zealand and in training this week on the Gold Coast. I'm looking to see players stick with those patterns, regardless of the pressure they come under, so we stay in shape and stay in structure."
Leadership will be provided by 2016 returnees in the starting line-up, second five Orbyn Leger and loose forwards Luke Jacobson, the skipper, and Dalton Papali'i. Off the bench are 2016 reps Asafo Aumua, Pouri Rakete-Stones and Isaia Walker-Leawere, who threw the pass of the tournament in their final game of the 2016 world champs.
Fiji will be using this series as valuable preparation for the August second-tier World Rugby Under 20 Trophy, to be held in Uruguay.
New Zealand Under 20s to face Fiji: Will Jordan, Tima Faingaanuku, Tamati Tua, Orbyn Leger, Joan Nareki, Tiaan Falcon, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Luke Jacobson (c), Tom Christie, Dalton Papali'i, Sam Slade, Jacob Pierce, Ryan Coxon, JP Sauni, Harrison Allan
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Tim Farrell, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Adrian Choat, Carlos Price, Ciarahn Matoe, Caleb Clarke
NZ schedule for Oceania tournament:
Friday April 28 v Fiji, 7.00pm NZT
Tuesday May 2 v Samoa, 5.00pm NZT
Saturday May 6 v Australia, 9.00pm NZT
All games will be live streamed on www.rugby.com.au and www.oceaniarugby.com