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New Zealand squad named for inaugural U20 Rugby Championship

By Ned Lester
(Photo by World Rugby via Getty Images)

The inaugural U20 Rugby Championship is set to kick off on the Sunshine Coast on May 2, and just like the senior tournament, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia and South Africa will have the chance to be crowned the best in the south.

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The New Zealand squad features 31 of the country’s finest young athletes, with selectors having identified plenty of promising talent at the recent U20 Super Rugby tournament played last month in Taupo.

While it was the Crusaders who won the tournament, it was Hurricanes loose forward Mosese Bason who took home the DJ Graham Medal as the best player in the tournament.

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Naturally, Bason has been named in the national squad which also features eight Crusaders players. Despite not making the final, the Hurricanes also boast eight representatives in the squad while the Blues have seven, the Chiefs have five and the Highlanders have three.

Three of the players have minutes in the NPC under their belt, 18 are on National Development contracts, six had featured in the 2023 national U20 squad and 21 are products of the national secondary schools programme.

“As a result of having a strong performance pathway established, we are able to assemble an exciting group of talented young men to represent New Zealand at the Rugby Championship Under 20 tournament next month,” head coach Jono Gibbes said.

“The tournament will be a great opportunity to test ourselves and gauge where we are, what we need to improve on before we embark on a competitive and tough Rugby World Championship later in the year.”

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The World Rugby U20 Championship takes place in South Africa from 29 June to 19 July. New Zealand is coming off back-to-back seventh-place finishes at the tournament.

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Gibbes emphasised his excitement for the level of talent in the 2024 squad and expressed appreciation for the high-performance programs across the country.

“Our selector network has been doing a huge amount of work in this space over the last six months. It has been a thorough and comprehensive process and one that is credit to their efforts.”

New Zealand Under 20 Squad: 

A-One Lolofie (Highlanders, Otago)
Andrew Smith (Chiefs, Waikato)
Ben O’Donovan (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Cameron Christie (Blues, North Harbour)
Cooper Grant (Crusaders, Tasman)
Dylan Pledger (Highlanders, Otago)
Frank Vaenuku (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty)
Giancarlo Tuivailala (Chiefs, Waikato)
Isaac Hutchinson (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Jeremiah Avei-Collins (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Jonathan Lee (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Josh Whaanga (Highlanders, Otago)
Joshua Smith (Hurricanes, Hawke’s Bay)
King Maxwell (Blues, Auckland)
Konradd Newland (Hurricanes, Hawke’s Bay)
Kurene Luamanuvae (Blues, Auckland)
Liam Jack (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Malachi Wrampling-Alec (Chiefs, Waikato)
Manumaua Letiu (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Matt Lowe (Crusaders, Tasman)
Mosese Bason (Hurricanes, Manawat?)
Rico Simpson (Blues, Auckland)
Sam Coles (Hurricanes, Manawat?)
Sika Pole (Blues, Auckland)
Stanley Solomon (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Toby Bell (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Tom Allen (Hurricanes, Hawke’s Bay)
Tristyn Cook (Blues, North Harbour)
Vernon Bason (Hurricanes, Manawat?)
William Martin (Chiefs, Waikato)
Xavi Taele (Blues, Auckland)

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Non-Travelling Reserves:
Logan Wallace (Hurricanes, Manawat?)
Nathaniel Pole (Blues, Auckland)
Riley Williams (Blues, Auckland)
Tai Cribb (Chiefs, Waikato)
Tofuka Paongo (Hurricanes, Wellington)

The final squad of 30 for the U20 World Rugby Championship in South Africa will be announced following the Rugby Championship Under 20 tournament.

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J
Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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