With the JWC just around the corner in France, RugbyPass looks at five standout candidates to keep an eye on from the defending champions, New Zealand. The JWC has launched a number of careers since its inception in 2008 and this year will be no different.
Devan Flanders – Number 8
One of the youngest members of the squad, Devan Flanders was man-of-the-match in the schoolboys test match last year for New Zealand, picking up the Bronze Boot.
“I was surprised by that. It was a big accomplishment, but I was quite happy with that,” he told RugbyPass.
His size and power will be an asset to the pack, providing a lineout option and solid ball carrying. He was the school 100m sprint champ in Year 12 but he says “all the fast boys came back in Year 13”, an impressive feat for a loose forward. In just six months since leaving school, he has put another 10kgs of size.
Expect Flanders to gain valuable experience at the tournament and return next year as one of the key members.
Billy Proctor – Centre
He was a highly sought after schoolboy prospect and Wellington made moves to keep him around. After a full season of club rugby under his belt and a provincial debut in 2017, Proctor will be ready for the international stage at the Junior World Cup. He can play at 12 or 13 and will likely be a regular starter in the midfield alongside Bailyn Sullivan or even Caleb Clarke.
Vilimoni Koroi – Fullback
The ‘star’ of this New Zealand’s under-20 squad is Koroi who is an established New Zealand Sevens player and Otago provincial player.
A shock selection in the national Sevens squad as an 18-year-old propelled the ex-Fielding High student onto the international stage last year. He showed his potential on the Sevens circuit, impressing with his speed and stepping ability.
Caleb Clarke – Wing
Clarke will return to the JWC after attending last year’s tournament in Georgia. He will feature prominently again on the left wing with his blistering pace but could also be used as a centre, a position he played in high school and for the New Zealand schoolboys. He scored six tries last year and has a chance to break the all-time record of most tries at the JWC set by Tevita Li (13).
Having made his Super Rugby debut in 2018, he will enter the tournament with plenty of confidence.
Kaliopasi Uluilakepa – Prop
Kaliopasi Uluilakepa represented Fiji u18’s as a schoolboy and attended Marist Brothers High in Suva. As a member of the Hurricanes youth academy, ‘Pasi’ has been playing club rugby in Wellington since.
The Tongan-born prop is a force to be reckoned with and will power the front row for the New Zealand under-20’s. His strong ball-carrying will set a solid platform for the side and is a dark horse to provide some special highlights at the tournament.
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