Probably our first crop of youngsters to compare with the 2011 U20s (Brodie, Beauden, Cane, Piutau, Taylor, Luatua, Weber, TJP, Naholo, Anscombe, Tameifuna and, um, Soapy and Shields. Here’s a few names you are likely to become familiar with:
6. Cullen Grace 20yo. We’ve struggled at 6 since Kaino retired but this guy will be special. 6’4”, concrete shoulders, abrasive, great spring, massive engine.
8. Hoskins Sotutu 22yo. You’ll see him stride down the touch line and offload in a three man tackle in these highlights, but he’s also got Zinzan like skills. Calm head for a kid too.
14/15. Will Jordan 22yo. He just makes things happen in ways the opposition aren’t expecting. Fast, good in the air, prolific. See his two tries in these highlights, one sharp poach and one textbook leap to win the game in the 84th minute.
11. Caleb Clarke 21yo. The sevens star is a stocky ball of flying muscle reminiscent of Inga the Winger.
5. Tupou Vaa’i 20yo. Just an impressive young man. Former head prefect at Wesley College, he was thrown into the deep end at the Chiefs when all locks over the age of 21 were injured and nothing seemed to phase him.
Of the names you’ll already know, Reiko Ioane has returned to his schoolboy position of 13 and his outside break and strength are complemented good distribution and decision making. Big brother Akira is finally meeting his potential too.
Big lock Patrick Tuipulotu was given the Blues captaincy and leadership agrees with him. He’s finally putting that power to good use too.
Jordie Barrett has taken ownership of the Hurricanes back line since Beauden left and seems to have cut out those brain fades. Goal kicking very well too – interesting that he and DMac took the kicks on Saturday. DMac was back to his best on Saturday too, including later on at ten.
Beauden got the back line moving very well on Saturday, something I’ve not always been convinced of. Mo’unga was average though as was Tu’inukuafe.
Here are the highlights and the squad. Some very classy tries.
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor. Props: Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi. Locks: Quinten Strange, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Whitelock. Loose forwards: Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Cullen Grace, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu. Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber. First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga. Midfielders: Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown. Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece.