Simon Hickey's experience running the cutter at the ailing Blues should stand him in good stead as the skipper of the New Zealand Under-20s in June's Junior World Championship.

The 20-year-old Aucklander is one of just two returning from the disappointing 2013 campaign, where New Zealand finished fourth in France. Hickey's Super Rugby duties ruled him out of the final camp and trial, but he will lead a 28-strong squad announced yesterday.

"We think Simon will provide some great leadership for the team given his experience both on the field and in this team environment," said head coach Chris Boyd.

Waikato hooker Epalahame Faiva is the other player returning from 2013, and followers of the Rugby Channel's First XV coverage will recognise several talented young-sters fresh out of school, such as 2013 NZ Schools captain, flanker Mitchell Jacobson of Waikato.


There are seven players from Waikato, contrasted with just three from Auckland.

Outside backs Tevita Li and Anton Lienert-Brown have also appeared in Super Rugby this season, while a clutch have appeared at ITM Cup level.

"We're pretty happy with the squad we have selected," said Boyd. "We've got a very hard-working and efficient forward pack supported by a very exciting backline with plenty of talent. We expect to play a traditional New Zealand style of rugby - high tempo and expansive style of rugby.

"The boys are aware that this is a special occasion to be playing a tournament in our own backyard. They are looking forward to the challenge of playing at home, but they are also relishing the opportunity to showcase their style of rugby in front of family and friends."

The New Zealand squad will face the Hurricanes Development XV tomorrow in Palmerston North before reconvening in Mt Maunganui on May 20 ahead of the June 2 tournament kickoff.

See B14 for full squad