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Facing the haka: How Junior Wallaby plans to accept New Zealand’s challenge

By Finn Morton
Angus Staniforth of Australia in action during The Rugby Championship U20 Round 2 match between Australia and South Africa at Sunshine Coast Stadium on May 07, 2024 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Angus Staniforth has never stood in front of a haka, but that will change on Sunday evening when Australia U20s take on rivals New Zealand U20s at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

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With the New Zealanders looking to secure the first-ever Rugby Championship U20 crown with a win about 90 minutes north of Brisbane, the Junior Wallabies are ready to spoil the party.

Australia have named a talented matchday side to take on the foe from across the ditch, which includes a tournament debut for Queensland Reds playmaker Harry McLaughlin-Phillips.

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Angus Staniforth on the Boogieman and the Baby Blacks | TRC U20

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Angus Staniforth on the Boogieman and the Baby Blacks | TRC U20

Goondiwindi local Toby Macpherson, who was formerly part of the Reds’ junior system before moving to the ACT Brumbies, will lead the Aussies into battle for the third match on the bounce.

For many players in the team, this match marks an exciting milestone in their rugby journeys. This will be the first time they stand and accept New Zealand’s traditional challenge in the haka.

Outside back Angus Staniforth is one of those men.

Coach Nathan Grey has given the Junior Wallabies a tip on what to do as they look to send the message “that you’re on” before the fiery clash.

“This will be my first time. It’ll be a bit nerve-wracking but it’ll be a cool experience,” Staniforth told RugbyPass on Friday.

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“You always see it on TV, you’re getting goosebumps and trying to I suppose half replicate it when you’re a little kid. It’ll be awesome.

“(Coach Nathan Grey) said something about that,” he added. “Just staring down the opposite number, letting him know that you’re on.”

The Junior Wallabies are still a mathematical chance of taking out the inaugural title for the junior Rugby Championship, but they would still have to be considered an outside chance.

Australia are third on the ladder while the New Zealanders sit in first. The Baby Blacks will be the team lifting the gigantic trophy if they manage to beat the men in gold on Sunday evening.

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If the Kiwis fail to get the job done, that opens the door for Argentina. Los Pumitas play the Junior Springboks, and if they win with a bonus point, they would leapfrog a losing New Zealand outfit.

But that’s the bigger picture. If you narrow your focus, just as both the Australia and New Zealand squads so clearly have, you’ll see this is a clash between two great rugby nations.

“They’re obviously a classy side. You saw them against Argentina, their skills and pretty good and they execute under pressure pretty well and they’ve got some lightning outside backs,” Staniforth said when asked about New Zealand U20s.

“It’ll be a good match for us but hopefully we can lock down their outside backs and our forwards can muscle up like they did against South Africa and we can just punch through.”

This match at Sunshine Coast Stadium is the final fixture in the three-round tournament. South Africa play Argentina in the earlier match which is scheduled to get underway at 5 pm local time.

Australia host rivals New Zealand in at 7 pm. Viewers in Aussie can watch the match on Stan Sport and Sky Sport will stream the fixture across the ditch in Aotearoa.

Junior Wallabies to take on New Zealand U20

1. Jack Barrett

2. Ottavio Tuipulotu

3. Nick Bloomfield

4. Toby Macpherson (c)

5. Harvey Cordukes

6. Aden Ekanayake

7. Dane Sawers

8. Jack Harley

9. Doug Philipson

10. Harry McLaughlin-Phillips

11. Will McCulloch

12. Ronan Leahy

13. Divad Palu

14. Xavier Rubens

15. Angus Staniforth

Replacements

16. Bryn Edwards

17. Lington Leli

18. Tevita Alatini

19. Ben Daniels

20 Ben Di Staso

21. Hwi Sharples

22. Joey Fowler

23. Boston Fakafanua

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