Size is important in rugby and the New Zealand Under-20s have recognised that with some of their work over the past few months.

The 32-man squad for next week's Oceania tournament on the Gold Coast assembled in Auckland yesterday and it was noticeable that some of the side had bulked up, to better combat the England and South African behemoths they might strike in the playoffs of June's Junior World Championship in Italy.

"The national Under-19 tournament in Taupo last year meant we got to see the guys in context, at a high level, and got to focus on their work-ons and areas to improve like weight, size and strength," said new head coach Scott Robertson.

"Some guys have made massive shifts. So overall in our body-mass, we are bigger in that tight five."

Advertisement

Into that category comes Canterbury lock Hamish Dalzell - whose mother is a Whitelock - already standing over 2m, who has packed on 12kg, Auckland second-rower Jamie Lane, who is more than 10kg heavier, while openside Mitch Karpik, who was 92kg, is now over 100kg.

New Zealand had a set-piece clinic from South Africa last year, and so the size and techniques of the tight five are under the microscope.

Robertson and his assistants Leon MacDonald (attack) and Tana Umaga (defence) will name the 28-man squad for the Junior World Championship after the Oceania tournament.

Some Super Rugby players may come into contention, notably the Blues trio of loose forwards Blake Gibson and Akira Ioane, and wing Tevita Li, scorer of six tries in the 2014 JWC. All three are on the fringes of the Blues top starting line-up, but should be released as the franchise will not be involved in the playoffs.

Crusaders outside back Nathaniel Apa may also be available to travel to Italy. Damian McKenzie will be staying with the Chiefs to cover for injured Aaron Cruden, denying the Under-20s a prime attacking threat. But they do have talent aplenty in the backline.

While there will be some rotation for the Oceania tournament, Robertson is not viewing this event as three trial matches, not after the exhaustive selection process and training camps.

"We're not trialling. We're going to perform, and if you perform, you have an opportunity to go away to Italy. There is a winner of the [Oceania] competition, so we have to balance performance development and results," he said.

Waikato prop Atu Moli, one of eight survivors from the 2014 side that placed third, is expected to be named skipper.

The squad flies to Australia on Tuesday and faces Japan next Friday, Samoa on May 5 and Australia on May 9.