Reputation precedes Baby Black frontrower

If new Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby frontrower Ricky Riccitelli proves a hit Brendon Edmonds and Ash Dixon may ask for bonus payments later in the season.

Magpies head coach Craig Philpott confirmed the signing of New Zealand under-20 rep Riccitelli last night. Riccitelli, who captained the Otago under-19s from hooker last season, will start at loosehead prop for the Baby Blacks against Samoa in their second match at the Oceania Junior Championship against Samoa on the Gold Coast today.

"I knew about Ricky because I had seen him at New Zealand under-20 trial camps but Doogie [Edmonds] contacted me earlier this year to tell me how good Ricky was when he was training with the Highlanders during their pre-season training programme. When Ash confirmed it I knew he was definitely worth chasing," Philpott said.

Philpott is predicting Riccitelli and Magpies lock Geoff Cridge to make the Baby Blacks side for the June 2-20 Under-20 World Cup in Italy. This side will be named next week and if that's the case the pair will unlikely to be available for the Magpies until the second Ranfurly Shield defence against Horowhenua-Kapiti on July 16.


"That's why it's important the likes of Jorian [Tangaere] and Mike [Sosene-Feagai] continue to work hard and put their hands up for selection," Philpott said referring to Clive hooker Tangaere and Taradale hooker Sosene-Feagai.

A Francis Douglas Memorial College old boy from Taranaki, Riccitelli, was the school's sportsman of the year in 2012. He represented Taranaki at under-14, 16 and 18 levels and gained Hurricanes under-16 tournament team selection in 2012.

While studying at Otago University for the past three years, Riccitelli has played for the Southern club in Dunedin. He also excelled at cricket representing Taranaki through the grades, his school's 1st XI for four years as well as the Central Districts under-19 squad.

Riccitelli, who has signed a two-year deal with the Bay, said leaving Otago was a tough decision to make.

"But in the end I decided Hawke's Bay was the best opportunity for me. There are so many Super players and the Ranfurly Shield was definitely a factor."

"I can tell you if Craig gives me the opportunity to play for the Magpies I will put all my heart and passion into it," Riccitelli said.

When asked if he felt a bit of pressure to emulate the feats of another Taranaki age group product, Rhys Marshall, who gained Chiefs selection after playing for the Bay under-20s, Riccitelli said if he could take his rugby to bigger and better stages that would prove he made the right decision to move north.

He has yet to decide which Bay club he will play for.

"I could end up living with Geoff [Cridge] so it might be Hastings. But Gareth [Evans] took me out for a coffee and told me how good Havelock North was ... it will be one of those two."

Hastings Rugby and Sports' Cridge will be on the Baby Blacks subs bench today. He started in Saturday's 75-0 thrashing of Japan, a game which was originally scheduled for Friday but was postponed because of severe weather warnings which also forced the postponement of the Kiwi rugby league side's Anzac test.

With just two days between the Baby Blacks first and second matches, head coach Scott Robertson has opted for an entirely different starting 15 for today's game.

Six players who started off the bench on Saturday will have starting 15 duties today.

Robertson said that as with the first game, this was an opportunity for players to show what they could do.

"Again, it's about testing a few combinations, but also really seeing how well they cope with playing in this environment. With three games in a week, it does give a chance to use all our players and for them to start a test and see them perform at the highest level."

New Zealand's final game will be against Australia at the weekend and Riccitelli hopes he will get a crack at hooker so he can get a chance to lineout throw to Cridge. The Aussies beat Samoa 33-10 at the weekend.