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New Zealand U20 team named to face France in crunch match

By Ben Smith
New Zealand do the Haka in Paarl (Photo by World Rugby)

New Zealand U20 have named their side to face France U20 in a crucial pool match at the World Rugby U20 Championships in South Africa.

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After beating Wales 27-26 in a tight contest, New Zealand now face the Six Nations U20 runners-up France who present a strong challenge.

Head coach Clark Laidlaw has made a number of tweaks to the line-up, most notably in the forwards to prepare for a physical French pack.

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The front row of Ben Ake, hooker Jack Taylor and tighthead Siale Lauaki remains unchanged but at lock Tom Allen replaces Will Stodart to partner Tahlor Cahill. Stodart moves to the bench in the 23. Raymond Tuputupu, Malakai Hala, and Gabe Robinson are the front row reserves.

The loose forwards have been reshuffled with co-captain Peter Lakai moving to openside to accomodate Waikato-product Malachi Wrampling-Alec at No 8.

Che Clark, who cleaned up the scraps from a cross-field kick for the game-sealing try against Wales, retains his place at No 6. Hurricanes U20 loose forward Cooper Flanders comes onto the bench for his first appearance in pool play.

In the halves Crusaders’ pair Noah Hotham and Taha Kemara retain their combination for a second straight game, with Jordi Viljoen providing cover for Hotham on the bench.

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In the midfield Leo Gordon has been handed a start at second five-eighth to partner impressive centre Aki Tuivailala in his first year of U20s eligibility.

Ajay Faleafaga, who is a regular first-five but played No 12 against Wales in a dual playmaker axis, moves to the bench.

The back three remains unchanged with Crusader Macca Springer starting on the left wing, Hurricane Harry Godfrey at fullback and All Blacks Sevens rep Caleb Tangitau on the right.

Another Sevens rep, Codemeru Vai, has been named in the 23 jersey to provide utility cover.

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The two sides will met at 11:30pm NZT on Thursday in a game that will likely decide who tops Pool A and keeps their Championship hopes alive.

New Zealand U20 matchday 23 to face France U20:

1. Ben Ake (Auckland)
2. Jack Taylor (Southland)
3. Siale Lauaki (Wellington)
4. Tahlor Cahill (Canterbury)
5. Tom Allen (Hawke’s Bay)
6. Che Clark (Auckland)
7. Peter Lakai – Vice captain (Wellington)
8. Malachi Wrampling-Alec (Waikato)
9. Noah Hotham – Captain (Tasman)
10. Taha Kemara – Vice Captain (Waikato)
11. Macca Springer (Tasman)
12. Leo Gordon (Auckland)
13. Aki Tuivailala (Waikato)
14. Caleb Tangitau (Auckland)
15. Harry Godfrey (Hawke’s Bay)

Reserves

16. Raymond Tuputupu (Manawatu)
17. Malakai Hala (Manawatu)
18. Gabe Robinson (Waikato)
19. Will Stodart (Otago)
20. Cooper Flanders (Hawke’s Bay)
21. Jordi Viljoen (Manawatu)
22. Ajay Faleafaga (Otago)
23. Codemeru Vai (Bay of Plenty)

 

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