Five Super Rugby Pacific stars among those included in New Zealand U20 squad
Five players who featured in Super Rugby Pacific this season headline the 2022 New Zealand U20 squad set to compete in this year’s Oceania Rugby U20 Championship.
A 30-man squad was announced by head coach Tom Donnelly on Tuesday as they prepare to take on their Australia, Fiji and Argentina in Queensland next month.
Among those included in Donnelly’s squad, five players – hookers George Bell (Crusaders) and Raymond Tuputupu (Hurricanes), prop Seb Calder (Crusaders), lock Fabian Holland (Highlanders), and midfielder Riley Higgins (Hurricanes) – have played at senior level for their respective franchises.
Tuputupu debuted for the Hurricanes as a last-minute call-up ahead of their round three win over the Highlanders in March despite having never played at a first-class level before.
Higgins followed suit two months later, making his Super Rugby Pacific debut for the Hurricanes in their 67-5 drubbing of the Fijian Drua in a match where he was sin-binned.
Elsewhere, Bell and Calder both debuted for the Crusaders in their 53-15 thumping of the Western Force last month, while Holland, the Dutch-born product, featured on two occasions for the Highlanders.
Furthermore, Higgins, Bell and Holland are three of five players who return to the New Zealand U20 squad after playing for the side last year, with the other two being Hurricanes U20 duo Peter Lakai and Harry Godfrey.
Canterbury lock Tahlor Cahill, a former AFL prospect, has also been named after claiming the Sir John Graham Player of the Tournament award for his efforts with the New Zealand Barbarians at last month’s Super Rugby U20 series in Taupo.
Cahill joins 10 players in the New Zealand U20 set-up who played in last year’s edition of the NPC, and that depth of quality made it a difficult task for Donnelly to select the squad.
“We had a fantastic group of selectors that did an amazing job in pulling together a lot of information which made for a very robust selection process,” Donnelly, the Otago head coach and ex-All Blacks lock, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We’re lucky when it comes to the amount of talent we have to select from, we could have picked 40 or 50 players; so this was a massive challenge.”
Donnelly, who is being assisted by Hurricanes defence coach Cory Jane and Crusaders attack coach Scott Hansen, added that is looking forward to the team assembling prior to their matches on the Sunshine Coast.
“For many of these players, they will be wearing the black jersey for the first time and that is something incredibly special not only for them, but their families and communities,” he said.
“First and foremost, we are going over there to win. We know that comes with the territory in the black jersey.
“But beyond that it is really important to be providing these players with a professional environment for them to develop, to learn good behaviours and set them on the right path for their rugby going forward.”
The New Zealand U20 squad kick their Oceania Rugby U20 Championship campaign off against Fiji on July 1 at Sunshine Coast Stadium, where they will also face Argentina on July 5 and Australia on July 10.
2022 New Zealand U20 squad
Josh Bartlett (Chiefs/Bay of Plenty)
Josh Beehre (Blues/Auckland)
George Bell (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Joe Brial (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Tahlor Cahill (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Seb Calder (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Oliver Haig (Highlanders/Otago)
Jamie Hannah (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Fabian Holland (Highlanders/Otago)
Peter Lakai (Hurricanes/Wellington)
Siale Lauaki (Hurricanes/Wellington)
Hayden Michaels (Highlanders/Southland)
Lavengamonu (Monu) Moli (Crusaders/Tasman)
Viliami Napa’a (Crusaders/Tasman)
Wallace Sititi (Blues/Auckland)
Mason Tupaea (Chiefs/Waikato)
Raymond Tuputupu (Hurricanes/Manawatu)
Lucas Cashmore (Chiefs/Bay of Plenty)
Harry Godfrey (Hurricanes/Hawke’s Bay)
Riley Higgins (Hurricanes/Wellington)
Noah Hotham (Highlanders/Tasman)
Finn Hurley (Highlanders/Otago)
Joel Lam (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Adam Lennox (Chiefs/Taranaki)
Cameron Millar (Highlanders/Otago)
Jone Rova (Crusaders/Canterbury)
Mackay (Macca) Springer (Crusaders/Tasman)
Jake Te Hiwi (Highlanders/Otago)
Essendon Tuitupou (Blues/Auckland)
Nik Vikena (Crusaders/Tasman)
Unavailable for selection: Caleb Tangitau (All Blacks Sevens)
Join free and tell us what you really think!Join Free