Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

Where are they now? – New Zealand 2017 Junior World Championship

By Liam Heagney
Asafo Aumua holds the trophy after the 2017 final (Photo by Jan Kruger/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Hard to believe that it is now six years since New Zealand were last crowned Junior World Championship champions. A French double and three pandemic-enforced cancellations have separated the Baby Blacks from the trophy they had previously won six times in 10 years.


However, a squad currently coached by Clark Laidlaw will now head to South Africa looking to re-establish their dominance at this age-grade level from next weekend.

There was no doubting the credentials of the Craig Philpott-coached class of 2017, their 10-try, 64-17 hammering of England in the final in Tbilisi the highest score and the widest margin of victory ever in a Junior World Championship decider.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer

They were 40-7 clear at the break against an English XV that included future Test picks in Max Malins, Harry Randall, Ben Earl and skipper Zach Mercer.

The age-grade champions from New Zealand provided even more of a bumper Test rugby harvest as seven of their starting XV went on to be capped as All Blacks by either Steve Hansen or Ian Foster – or both.

Four more starters and one sub have also been capped by Pacific Island countries, four for Samoa and another by Tonga, and while most of the squad now work in Super Rugby Pacific at club level, the Japan League and the URC have also become a home away from home. Here is their story:

15. Will Jordan
Broke through at Tasman NPC level before debuting for the Crusaders in the 2019 Super Rugby season. Started in Friday’s semi-final win over the Blues, his 52nd appearance. Debuted for the All Blacks in November 2020 versus Australia in Brisbane. Has 21 caps and is expected to be Ian Foster’s No15 at the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France.


14. Tima Faingaanuku
Another Tasman product, he made a single Super Rugby appearance for the Crusaders in 2018 before heading to Europe for a Top 14 season with Perpignan. Returned to New Zealand with the Highlanders. Changed at provincial level to Manawatu in 2021 and made the Super Rugby move to the start-up Moana in 2022. Has three Tonga caps but wasn’t chosen in midweek in their 35-strong Rugby World Cup training squad.

13. Braydon Ennor
A Canterbury product who played ITM Cup later in 2017, he scored three Super Rugby tries in eight appearances as a 2018 Crusaders sub. Now a firm first-choice pick under Scott Roberston, he helped to qualify on Friday for yet another final with the demolition of the Blues. Six caps for the All Blacks, three as a starter.

12. Orbyn Leger
His provincial emergence with Counties Manukau was followed by Super Rugby campaigns with the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes (16 appearances in total) before he headed to Japan to spend the last two years at Shimizu Blue Sharks.

11. Caleb Clarke
The Auckland winger made the Blues in 2018 where he continues to play, featuring in their recent bruising semi-final loss at Crusaders. Time on the sevens circuit tuned him up for All Blacks selection, debuting in the 2020 Rugby Championship. Has 15 caps in total so far.


10. Stephen Perofeta
Had made the Taranaki provincial team in 2016 and played twice off the Blues’ Super Rugby bench in 2017 before this age-grade success, a tournament he came into having started at Eden Park for the Blues versus the touring British and Irish Lions. Continues to feature for both those clubs in New Zealand and was a sub in Friday’s Super Rugby semi-final. Won three All Blacks caps last year.

9. Ereatara Enari
Another who had provincial and Super Rugby exposure prior to the 2017 Junior World Championship, coming through at Canterbury and the Crusaders. Has since swapped to Hawke’s Bay at provincial level and at Super Rugby to Moana. Debuted at Test level in 2022 with Samoa.

1. Ezekiel Lindenmuth
The Auckland boy made the Blues’ Super Rugby set-up in 2019 but is now found at Counties Manukau and Moana. Another who made a 2022 Test debut for Samoa.

2. Asafo Aumua
Played provincially for Wellington in 2016, making the Hurricanes in 2018. He continues to play for both those teams. Debuted for the All Blacks in November 2020 but it has been tough at Test level with just six caps so far.

3. Pouri Rakete-Stones
Hawke’s Bay was the tighthead’s route into Super Rugby with the Hurricanes in 2020, by which time he had already debuted for the Maori All Blacks. Difficult time this year with just a single Super Rugby start in six appearances.

4. Isaia Walker-Leawere
The lock was making the Wellington team in 2016, debuting for the Hurricanes two years later. Was a Super Rugby regular with them in 2023 but now plays provincially for Hawke’s Bay. Another Maori All Blacks pick.

New Zealand 2017 Junior World Junior Championship try
Pouri Rakete-Stones scores his team’s second try in the final (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

5. Samuel Slade
Has jumped around the place, playing provincially for Auckland, Manawatu and Counties before a short-lived pre-lockdown MLR stint at Colorado. He returned to Counties and has been part of Moana in both their Super Rugby campaigns, as well as getting capped at Test level with Samoa.

6. Luke Jacobson
The age-grade skipper’s emergence provincially at Waikato was quickly followed by Chiefs selection in 2018. They remain his two teams, Jacobsen chosen at No8 for this weekend’s Super Rugby semi-final win over the Brumbies. Has a dozen All Blacks caps since debuting versus Argentina in 2019.

7. Dalton Papali’i
Inclusion with Auckland soon led to Blues exposure in 2018 and he was in their back row for their Super Rugby exit this weekend at Crusaders. Has swapped provincially to Counties. Made the All Blacks as early as 2018 but has become a more regular pick under Foster. Currently on 22 caps.

8. Marino Mikaele-Tuu
A Hawke’s Bay in 2016, he made the Highlanders in 2018 and continues to play for both those teams. Just two starts in 10 Super Rugby appearances this season, though.

16. JP Sauni
Was capped by Samoa at Test level but the sub hooker has yet to fully crack the pro club scene, being last heard of at third-tier Nice in France and Western Sydney in the Shute Shield.

17. Harrison Allan
Spent 2018 and 2019 with Canterbury and the Crusaders but is now playing just provincially with Manawatu.

18. Alex Fidow
Played for Wellington from 2016 but switched provincially to North Harbour last year. Had five years of Super Rugby with the Hurricanes but was released after the 2022 season.

19. Sam Caird
Played provincially for Waikato and Northland before making a post-lockdown Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs. Spent 2022 at the Highlanders and then moved to Japan, hooking up with Hanazono Kintetsu Liners.

20. Tom Christie
The back row’s emergence at Canterbury eventually led to Super Rugby selection at the Crusaders in 2020 where he is now their regular pick at No7.

21. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara
Four provincial campaigns with Wellington were followed by a one-season stay in France at the then Pro D2 Oyonnax. Now at the Highlanders where he started once in their recent Super Rugby campaign.

22. Tamati Tua
A 2016 Northland ITM Cup pick, the midfielder debuted as a Blues sub in 2018. Had to wait until 2022 to feature again, two further appearances helping to secure a move to the Brumbies where this weekend’s semi-final loss in Hamilton was his 13th start in 2023.

23. Josh McKay
Canterbury and the Highlanders was his route into the pro ranks and while a switch to the Crusaders didn’t work out, he has since made a home for himself with the Glasgow Warriors in Scotland.


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING The 'devastated' Leinster reaction to latest Champions Cup final loss The 'devastated' Leinster reaction to latest Champions Cup final loss