The Australia U20 side were one of the surprise outfits at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina last year, making it all the way to the final.

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They ultimately fell to defeat to a strong French side, although it was a highly promising campaign from the Junior Wallabies, whose fortunes at this level had previously been dwindling for a number of years.

They saw off Italy, Ireland and Argentina on their way to a one-point loss to France in the final and contrary to recent seasons when the side have looked outmuscled and outskilled by a number of Tier 1 sides at the competition, it was an Australian team packed with potential contributors at the next level.

Head coach Jason Gilmore put together a training camp squad earlier this year, before the COVID-19 outbreak curtailed the age-grade season, and last year’s runners looked to be in solid shape to compete again for the title in 2020, when the tournament was set to be hosted in Italy.

The quintet of Angus Bell, Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Joey Walton and Mark Nawaqanitawase (all Waratahs) return from last season’s squad, although they were retained by the Waratahs ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season, with all five potentially in the mix for senior selection. Nawaqanitawase was the most involved before the suspension of the season, with the young wing proving to be a handful for Super Rugby defences. Another player that was retained by their club was fly-half Reesjan Pasitoa, with the Brumbies having seen off significant NRL interest to keep him in union and lure him to Canberra out of school.

The squad was heavily built around the Australian Schoolboys side from 2019 that beat New Zealand, securing Australia a rare double over New Zealand at U18 and U20 level. Pasitoa was one of the leading men in that impressive effort and has since made his senior Brumbies debut at the age of 18.

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With strong representation from the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs, it bodes well for those three franchises moving forward, whilst it also reflects well on rugby in Western Australia, with the RugbyWA academy contributing six players, a stark contrast to just the one offered up by the Melbourne Rebels.

Another notable name in the squad was former Fijian U20 prop Emosi Tuqiri, a cousin of Lote, with the former Marist College Ashgrove captain having been set to bolster the Australian front row alongside Bell, who was arguably the standout loosehead in age-grade rugby last season.

Billy Pollard, a skilful hooker out of the Brumbies academy, would have looked to replace the significant game-breaking ability of the now graduated Lachlan Lonergan, whilst Nick Chan of the Waratahs would have been tasked with replacing Noah Lolesio at inside centre.

Assuming some sort of age-grade rugby goes ahead this year, if the Australian pack can provide Pasitoa with the sort of front-foot ball that they delivered last season, the fly-half does not lack for the ability to spark the Junior Wallaby back line. Do that, and they will be in contention with the traditional big boys of international age-grade should global travel be sanctioned, although failing that, there could be potential for a series with the New Zealand U20 side, as well as their counterparts from the Pacific Islands.

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Squad in full:

Lachlan Albert, Brumbies Academy

Reece Anapu, RugbyWA Academy

Angus Bell, Australian Sevens

Hudson Berry, Waratahs Academy

Hugh Bockenham, Waratahs Academy

Charlie Cale, Waratahs Academy

Oliver Callan, RugbyWA Academy

Nick Chan, Waratahs Academy

John Connolly, Waratahs Academy

Ethan Dobbins, Reds Academy

Max Douglas, Waratahs Academy

John Downes, Queensland

Tane Edmed, Waratahs Academy

Fred Fewtrell, Reds Academy

Josh Flook, Reds Academy

Theo Fourie, Queensland

Harrison Fox, Reds Academy

Reno Gerrard, Reds Academy

Tom Haddad, Brumbies Academy

Tom Hooper, Brumbies Academy

Spencer Jeans, Reds Academy

Kristian Jensen, Waratahs Academy

Tom Kibble, Queensland Reds

Tyrell Kopua, Queensland

Jack Lafofafo, Waratahs Academy

Viliami Lea, Queensland

Grayson Makara, RugbyWA Academy

Zane Marolt, Brumbies Academy

Alex Masibaka, RugbyWA Academy

Callum McDonald, Brumbies Academy

Zane Nonggor, Reds Academy

Billy Pollard, Brumbies Academy

Jackson Pugh, RugbyWA Academy

Byron Ralston, RugbyWA Academy

Luke Reimer, Brumbies Academy

Alex Saaga, Rebels Academy

Dion Samuela, Reds Academy

Rory Scott, Brumbies Academy

Lachlan Shelly, Waratahs Academy

Rhian Stowers, Queensland

Phrancis Sula-Siaosi, Queensland

Tiaan Tauakipulu, Waratahs Academy

Sione Taufui, Wartahs Academy

Kalani Thomas, Reds Academy

Zeph Tuinona, Brumbies Academy

Emosi Tuquiri, Reds Academy

Tom Van Der Schyff, Reds Academy

Harry Vella, Reds Academy

Dennis Waight, Brumbies Academy

Jack Walsh, Waratahs Academy

Cooper Whiteside, Queensland

Jeremy Williams, Waratahs Academy

Harry Wilson, Waratahs Academy

Jack Winchester, Reds Academy

Angus Bell, Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Joey Walton, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Reesjan Pasitoa selected but retained by clubs.

Watch: Waratahs’ Jed Holloway interview

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