The promising Australia U20 vintage we may never get to see
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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
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