Prop Fraser Armstrong (Te Awamutu Sports) and midfield back Marnus Hanley (Hautapu) have been included in the 28-man squad that will be aiming for New Zealand’s fifth junior world championship title in a row.
Five Waikato players in total were selected to the final trial camp in Palmerston North over the weekend in a wider squad of 46 players.
Despite all trialing well, loose forward Eli Atkins (University), halfback Haami Martin (Otorohanga) and centre Jacob Proctor (Hamilton Marist) missed selection when the squad was trimmed to the final 28.
Hanley, originally from Whakatane but now a Sir Edmund Hillary scholar at Waikato University, was a late inclusion into the trialing squad, and Waikato Rugby Union game development manager Mike Crawford said the big centre had an outstanding trial which convinced the selectors to include him.
“He had a blinder of a trial and the selectors were impressed with his distribution skills. His biggest qualities are his foot work and his ability to create space, and he’s quite a big player physically too.”
Armstrong, the former Hamilton Boys’ High and New Zealand Schools prop, has a big future in the game and has been in the Waikato academy system for several years.
“Fraser was part of the Waikato Under 20s last year and got his opportunity to trial through that programme,” Crawford said.
He trialled very well with his scrummaging in particular very strong. He has been working with Carl Hoeft (Waikato Rugby Union’s forward skills coach) recently and that influence seems to have had an impact.”
There is another Mooloo connection to the squad with Waikato ITM Cup assistant coach Scott McLeod on board as an assistant where he will be working under head coach Rob Penney.
“I’m really happy with the squad we have selected with a lot of young men putting their hands up for national team honours,” Penney said.
“We’re really excited about heading to South Africa now to defend our title.”
New Zealand opens their tournament against Samoa on June 4 with Wales and Fiji also in their pool.
The squad will assemble again in Auckland on May 24 before leaving for South Africa on May 30.
New Zealand Under 20 squad for the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa from June 4-22:
Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Fraser Armstrong (Waikato), Hugh Blake (Otago), Ambrose Curtis (Wellington), Scott Eade (Southland), Jason Emery (Manawatu), Bryn Hall (North Harbour), Marnus Hanley (Waikato), Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty), Jake Heenan (Auckland), Milford Keresoma (Auckland), Jonathon Kitto (Canterbury), Joe Latta (Wellington), Christian Lloyd (Wellington), Taniela Manu (Canterbury), Rhys Marshall (Hawke’s Bay), Martin McKenzie (Southland), Ope Peleseuma (Wellington), Glenn Preston (North Harbour), Matt Proctor (Wellington), Tuki Raimona (Southland), Nick Ross (Canterbury), Eric Sione (Wellington), Junior Tafa Va’a (Auckland), Jordan Taufua (Canterbury), Jimmy Tupou (Counties Manukau), Ofa Tuungafasi (Auckland), Ihaia West (Hawke’s Bay).
Those unavailable for selection are Auckland’s Gnafatasi Sua (injury), and TJ Perenara (Wellington) and Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty) due to Investec Super Rugby commitments.