Blues once again in NZ U20 line-up

Blues once again in NZ U20 line-up

Young Blues players have once again proved themselves worthy of starting positions for the U20 World Cup semifinal against France.
Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane and Tevita Li will be starting in tonight’s match over in Italy, Li earning his spot after a stellar performance against Ireland in the team’s previous match.†
Our winger scored two tries in the 25-3 defeat of Ireland, which was the team’s third win of three this competition.†

Head Coach Scott Robertson and assistant coaches Leon MacDonald and Tana Umaga, have made four changes and two positional changes to the starting 15 which faced Ireland last Wednesday.

ìWe believe we’ve got the 15 that’s performed and taken the opportunity,î explained Robertson. ìWe’ve got a little bit of continuity in our play and also welcome back Anton Lienert-Brown who’s been in phenomenal form playing Super Rugby. Jack Goodhue moves to the wing to accommodate him.î

Robertson was pleased to see the improvements made by the New Zealand youngsters during their 25-3 defeat over a gutsy Irish side. ìThere were definitely some gains around our game management. We played more conservative rugby, and tactically we were a bit more savvy around how we played on the field. I thought our defence was really strong and obviously they didn’t cross our line.î

However, the New Zealanders are still finding their feet with the tighter style of rugby displayed by opposition teams so far, but Robertson is confident that his team is learning to exploit opportunities. ìWe made 13 line breaks and Ireland only made three and that’s a big positive. We will still need to focus on our execution, so we can continue to convert those opportunities into points.

ìWe haven’t dealt with the rolling maul that well, so this week we’ve worked really hard on defending those maul tries,î he added.

The team has also been working hard on set-piece and this will be a key area when they face the powerful French. ìWe expect a really strong disruptive French scrum. It’s an area that we’ve worked on and we’ve experienced some really good scrums in our games so far, however our line-outs are a continual work-on for us.†

ìThe French can be emotional and very physical. You can’t help but have at the back of your mind that they’ve got a great history against us. We’ve addressed that as much as we can, creating an awareness for our young men in the team in what to expect, and for us to actually impose ourselves right from the start. I believe we’ve got ourselves into a good mental space and our expectations of what we will face are clear,î said Robertson.

New Zealand has been plagued by poor starts in all three pool matches and the New Zealand coach feels it’s not down to any one factor. ìWe haven’t started well this whole tournament, not through lack of trying. We’ve tried to make the adjustments so we can put that right. The big thing for us is we’re playing test football and being in the mindset that everyone tends to play their best game of rugby against us.

ìWe’ve played a lot of football and we’ve created a lot of opportunities, but a lot of our errors have been handling mistakes through trying to force those passes. The errors can compound and then we put pressure on ourselves,î he acknowledged.

ìThe other teams play those very territory-based game plans and you can see that in the way they drive line-outs. We can just end up putting pressure back on ourselves by making errors, so we’re just trying to get the balance right.

ìWe want to play rugby, we want to create space, we want use our width and we want to use our speed. We believe we have a game plan that will get us through to the world cup final.î

The team is:

1 Ricky Riccitelli Hawke’s Bay
2 Liam Polwart Auckland
3 Atunaisa Moli Waikato
4 Joshua Goodhue Canterbury
5 Hamish Dalzell Canterbury
6 James Blackwell Wellington
7 Blake Gibson Auckland
8 Akira Ioane Auckland
9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi Taranaki
10 Otere Black Manawatu
11 Tevita Li North Harbour
12 Tinoai (TJ) Faiane Auckland
13 Anton Lienert-Brown Waikato
14 Jack Goodhue Canterbury
15 Mitchell Hunt Auckland


16 Steven Misa Waikato
17 Isileli Tu’ungafasi Auckland
18 Tau Koloamatangi Waikato
19 Mitchell Dunshea Canterbury
20 Henry Stowers Wellington
21 Harrison Levien Waikato
22 Vincent Tavae-Aso Auckland
23 George Bridge Canterbury

New Zealand will play France this Monday 15 June at 6.30pm local time (Tuesday 16 June, 4.30am NZST) at Stadio San Michele, Calvisano.