The New Zealand team to face Wales on Tuesday in the World Rugby Under 20 Championship 2016 in Manchester, England, is as follows:
1. Sean Paranihi
2. Leni Apisai (C)
3. Sosefo Kautai
4. Quinten Strange
5. Hamish Dalzell
6. Luke Jacobson
7. Mitchell Jacobson
8. Hapakuki Moala Liava’a
9. Sam Nock
10. Stephen Perofeta
11. Jonah Lowe
12. Jordie Barrett
13. Patelesio Tomkinson
14. Caleb Makene
15. Shaun Stevenson
16. Asafo Aumua
17. Sean Stodart
18. Alex Fidow
19. Isaia Walker-Leawere
20. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u
21. Jonathan Taumateine
22. TJ Va’a
23. Malo Tuitama
Head Coach Scott Robertson, along with Assistant Coaches Craig Philpott and Willie Rickards, have made five changes to the starting XV which faced the same opponents in the final pool game last Wednesday.
Prop Sean Paranihi and loose forwards Luke Jacobson and Hapakuki Moala Liava’a replace Ayden Johnstone, Fin Hoeata and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u respectively, while Stephen Perofeta reclaims the number 10 jersey from TJ Va’a. The back three has reverted to the line-up which took the field in the opening game against Georgia, with Jonah Lowe replacing Jordan Trainor on the left wing.
Robertson said it took the squad some time to get over the fact that they had failed to reach the semifinals. “They were gutted, absolutely gutted, as a group. We didn’t get all that we’d planned for, hoped for and worked for. The players have worked as hard as any group that I’ve been involved with. There were a couple of critical moments along the way: we didn’t take opportunities and we haven’t controlled what we needed to control to get through.
“We’ve scored the most tries in the comp and we’ve got the best defence in the comp, but we’re not playing for the top four. It’s been a tough couple of days, but now we’ve got a chance to make a wee statement.”
That chance comes against a Wales side who have proved themselves as tough opponents throughout the competition, with every one of their games decided by just a single point margin. “Wales are a team that comes outside in on defence,” added Robertson. “They bring a lot of line speed and they disrupt you around the breakdown. Against us they never passed the ball more than twice in a row the whole game. They try and stop you playing rugby, so for us our challenge is to firstly create the opportunities and then convert them. We’re going to play: that’s our mindset, that’s our skillset.”
Despite the disappointment of playing off for fifth position and not the championship itself, the head coach has seen some real quality in many of his young players, especially in the backline. “I’ve been impressed with Stephen Perofeta at 10. I think he’s done a great job with his kicking game, especially in the wet and his execution’s been really strong. A lot of our bench guys are young boys who’ve come on and made a really good impact. Obviously Jordie Barrett’s been exceptional. His courage and his skill level have been so high and he’s a great young man.
“Our outside backs are a real strength. We want to play with width and get the ball out there, but we haven’t given those guys much opportunity. When we have, Shaun Stevenson has been critical with his line breaks, metres gained and men beaten which have been as good as anyone in the comp. Jonah Lowe is just a tough, oppressive, relentless outside back and Caleb Makene can play on the wing or at full back and he’s safe as.”
New Zealand v Wales will be broadcast live on SKY Sports 1 from 2.10am NZT.
New Zealand U20 playing schedule (local times):
Tuesday, 7 June (Wednesday 8 June, NZT)
New Zealand 55-0 Georgia
Saturday, 11 June (Sunday 12 June, NZT)
New Zealand 24-33 Ireland
Wednesday, 15 June (Thursday 16 June, NZT)
New Zealand 18-17 Wales
Monday, 20 June 3.15pm (Tuesday 21 June, 2.15am NZT) v Wales, Manchester City Academy Stadium
The final round of matches will be played on 25 June.
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