Adrian Choat's rise to the New Zealand Under 20s was swift.

The 19-year-old finds himself as one of three potential openside flanker options for New Zealand as they prepare for the three-match Oceania Under 20s series, starting tonight with a clash against Fiji on the Gold Coast.

Choat is on the pine for this international. But just a few months ago, he was a long way from the selectors' thinking. That's not a slight on him, just an indication that New Zealand still produces quality loosies by the bucketload from their teen years.

Choat's rugby journey is not a well-travelled one. He played his First XV rugby at Liston College, which plays in Auckland's 1B competition. Liston might not rank as one of the heavyweights in the Auckland schools scene, but it has produced its fair share of talent, namely Craig Dowd, Mark Carter and Josh Blackie, the latter duo fine and often under-rated No 7s.


Choat left Liston at the end of 2015 and took up an engineering degree at the University of Auckland via a Royal Wolf Tertiary Scholarship, in conjunction with the Auckland Rugby Union Supporters' Club Junior Rugby Foundation. He also cracked the Waitemata club premiers, on occasion appearing with his brothers Nick and Jeremy, the first triple set of brothers to appear for the club since the Toailoas - Mani, Thomas and Tila - in the early 2000s.

Choat's 2016 was a steep learning curve in time management. He was in the Auckland Rugby Union academy and juggling studies with club and union training.

"Last year was quite hard to balance everything. You get to the point where after weeks and weeks of training, it's quite hard to focus. You don't realise how easy it is at school. Uni is very independent but it's a big learning process. This year, taking that in to account, I talked to Royal Wolf and the university and dropped two papers this semester," he says.

He'll catch up and will have the laptop handy in Australia.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Jock Hobbs Memorial Under 19 tournament as a springboard for some careers. Choat made a real impact for Auckland A in 2016, who made the Premiership final. Often off the bench, he revealed a nose for the ball and the tryline.

"It was good because, coming from a 1B school, I didn't get noticed as much. Getting into the ARU academy, playing prems... that tournament meant I knew I could compete with quality guys from the other provinces. It was a really good experience, a first crack at semi-professional rugby for my province," he says.

Then things started to fall into place after that national, televised, exposure.

"Originally I wasn't supposed to trial, but due to an injury I was brought into the December camp and went reasonably well. I was selected for the March camp and, from the feedback I got, I really pushed my way in. It was good to come from that and get in," he adds.

His rugby diet since has consisted of three games for the Blues Under 20s and a club outing on April 8 for Waitemata. If all goes well, he may not be back in his club colours until late June or early July.

Expectations for this Oceania series ahead of the World Rugby Under 20 championship in Georgia, which starts late next month?

"There's three opensides (Canterbury's Tom Christie and Auckland Under 19 teammate Dalton Papali'i are the other two), so I'm thinking we're going to be starting a game each. I'm hoping to play as much as I can and prove that the coaches were right to pick me," declares Choat.

New Zealand head coach Craig Philpott says Choat has played his way into the squad.

"Adrian is someone who took his opportunity in the March camp, when we had a trial. He got more game time than we initially thought he might, through injuries, and demanded selection. He's got an opportunity at that next level to show that he's ready to go to a World Cup," says Philpott.

*Tonight's game against Fiji will be live streamed on and from 7pm.