Southern States players will be well prepared for the NUC because they will be fighting tooth and nail for their spots in a selection tournament in Adelaide from Feb.21st to 26th—a month before the Canberra competition.
In those six days teams from South Australia, NSW Country, Queensland Country, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT will each play three matches, and ARU staffers will choose a combined squad to compete in the NUC.
The six teams to be combined after the Adelaide clashes will all be chosen from local training sessions. The ACT has already picked their squad for Adelaide. From 70 players training in November (including 13 from interstate) they have narrowed the squad down to 34, which includes three from outside the ACT.
Queensland boys were invited to train for selection starting in November last year and the squad was reduced after the holiday period.
There is not a lot of information about their programme, except that they will playing a match against the Junior Japan PRC team before they go to the NUC in Canberra, but you can bet that the Queensland Reds will be all over them like the Waratahs are with the NSW Colts.
As is the case with the Waratahs, they can cover the on-field coaching, plus the strength and conditioning of their Under 20 team, with little added cost
Who are the players to watch out for in the National Under 20 Competition?
On paper, the age group in Australia seems to be well-served in the backs; the battle for spots will be a feature of the NUC.
Three flyhalves from the 2013 Australian Under 20 team: Jake McIntyre (Qld), Luke Burton (WA) and Reece Hodge (NSW), should all be available for selection in 2014, though Hodge may be used at fullback. David Horwitz from the Waratahs EPS will probably represent NSW Colts and could outshine all of them.
Centre Lalakai Foketi, who has just been recruited for the Melbourne Rebels’ stable, will also be returning in 2014. He will likely play for Southern States and go head to head against Jim Stewart (NSW) who made his First Grade starting debut for Sydney University in 2013.
Another tourist from last year winger Brad Lacey (WA), should be another star back for the Southern side.
Dynamic fullback Jonah Placid (Qld) is also available in 2014 and will still be eligible for 2015. He is a future star and will be worth watching by anybody in Canberra during the NUC.
As usual with any year, the corps of forwards does not look so formidable, but expect to see late bloomers sprout up in this selection tournament.
Second rower Tom Staniforth (ACT) was my pick of the players from the Australian Under 20s last year and he is sure to be a standout player in the NUC. He will be opposed in the lineouts by big-engined Matt Philip (NSW) who will be raring to be selected again because he was injured before the 2013 JWC and had to stay home after being chosen for the trip.
Two Brumbies-connected players who were in the Australian Under 20 team last year have not been included in a named ACT squad but will most likely be added later.
Expect giant THP Allan Ala’alatoa of the Brumbies’ EPS, with two years of the JWC behind him already, to be a force in the NUC for Southern States and be joined by 6 or 8 Pat Sio who started in first grade for Northern Suburbs last year in the Shute Shield. In the off-season Pat has been training with brother Scott Sio at the Brumbies.
A few lads from the 2013 Australian Schools team, such as fullback Andrew Kellaway (NSW) and backrower Lolo Faka’osilea (Qld), may play in the NUC, but they will not stand out as much as they did against schoolboys a few months ago. They will be playing with and against older boys who have a whole season of Colts rugby behind them, or maybe two, or maybe even Grade rugby.
It’s a good place to start your rugby after school though.
Incidentally the ARU “are in the process of negotiating a live streaming platform with YouTube. This should be in operation shortly for matches and events throughout the ARU departments.”
Sounds like there is a chance that some NUC games will be available on YouTube; so some of the these stars can be seen in action. Well done ARU, if so.
For the two big rugby states it is well that NSW and Queensland are now back in control of this age group and not the National Academy anymore. Their self-interest in developing these players and getting to know their strengths and improving on their weaknesses helps both the state and the players.
Cheika said that as far as NSW was concerned, playing for the NSW Colts Under 20 team all fitted in with the FutureTahs campaign:
We want kids growing up, wanting to be a part of the program from the start.
The difference between now and a few years ago, before the National Academy, is that there is now a competition for Under 20s to focus on and to train for.
Well done ARU; now get a couple of warm-up games organised before the lads go over to New Zealand in July to get ten out of ten.
See New Aussie Competitions: Part I — Junior Gold Cup.
See New Aussie Competitions: Part III — National Rugby Championship.
Photos by Lee Grant – except Beale (Waratahs), Team Photo (ARU)
See below for slideshow of NSW Colts training sessions: