New Zealand U20 head coach Scott Robertson has named his squad to compete in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy next month.
Robertson and assistant coaches Leon MacDonald and Tana Umaga confirmed their final selections after winning all their matches at the Oceania Rugby Junior Championship in Australia last week.
The squad includes eight players from last year’s squad bringing invaluable tournament experience to the 2015 campaign. A total 10 players in the squad have also had either ITM Cup or Super Rugby experience.
Robertson said the Oceania tournament had been the perfect preparation for the World Championship.
“We really got to test our combinations and to put the boys under some pressure in both the tournament environment with short turn arounds between games, and the competition for positions,” he told allblacks.com.
They were now looking ahead to the World Championship in Italy.
“We’re excited to finally settle on our squad which we believe has the ability to perform at this tournament," added Robertson.
"We’ve think we've got the balance right between experience and talent to give us the best opportunity to do well.
“The World Rugby Under 20s is a unique opportunity for these boys to perform well on a world stage.”
Returning prop Atunaisa Moli continues his captaincy duties from the Oceania tournament.
“Atu Moli is a big strong 125k prop and it’s his second year," said Robertson.
"He’s a natural leader who is hugely respected and has a lot of mana in our group. We know he’ll lead the boys through his actions.”
Robertson said conditioning had helped to improve the scrum from last year, and the locking stocks and loose forwards provided a great mix of leadership and quality athletes.
“Our locks are big, tall and strong with the likes of Geoff Cridge coming out of the Hurricanes – that makes a massive difference for us along with guys who have been really focussed on their core roles and aerial skills," he explained.
“Otere Black will lead our backline, he’s a strong leader, he’s played ITM Cup, and he’s in the Hurricanes wider training group. He’ll lead us around the field well alongside a group of other players with great ITM Cup and Super Rugby experience.
“We’ve got a good mix across the backline helped by the power that Nathanial Apa brings. We’ve got a bit of pace, guys who can play in different positions and we’ve got depth in our squad, which is really exciting for us.”
New Zealand U20 squad:
Forwards: Isileli Tu'ungafasi (Auckland), Tau Koloamatangi (Waikato), Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty), Atunaisa Moli (Waikato), Liam Polwart (Auckland), Steven Misa (Waikato), Ricky Riccitelli (Hawke's Bay), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Geoffrey Cridge (Hawke's Bay), Joshua Goodhue (Canterbury), James Blackwell (Wellington), Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato), Blake Gibson (Auckland), Mitchell Karpik (Auckland), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Henry Stowers Province (Wellington).
Backs: Harrison Levien (Waikato), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki), Otere Black (Manawatu), Mitchell Hunt (Auckland), Tinoai (TJ) Faiane (Auckland), Jack Goodhue (Canterbury), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato), Nathaniel Apa (Canterbury), Tevita Li (North Harbour), Vincent Tavae-Aso (Auckland), George Bridge (Canterbury), Luteru Laulala (Canterbury).