Eighteen players from the Blues region have been included in three Under-18 national teams named by New Zealand Rugby for a three-way match in Wellington in October.
Nine players from the Blues region have been included in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team, seven in the New Zealand Under-18 Barbarians and two in the New Zealand Maori Under-18 Ngā Whatukura team who will contest a game of three halves as curtain-raiser to the Bunnings NPC match in Wellington on 9 October.
They are among 75 players to be rewarded for their performances and potential in school and club rugby this season with the 18 local players stretching from Dargaville High School in the north to south Auckland.
New Zealand Rugby High Performance Pathways Manager Ben Fisher said it was a great honour for all those who had been selected.
“We’ve seen another season of rugby disrupted by Covid 19, which includes the original schedule for these teams. For many of these players this will be the end of their school rugby, so it is great we have been able to select these squads and form a programme for them.
“The work of our convenors and talent identification network has been fantastic in canvasing across school and club rugby to select this group of young men. Now the task is providing them with a development opportunity that sets them up for success.”
Blues Talent Identification Manager, Shane King said the selection is a credit to the work put in by the young players and their coaches. Most have come through the Blues Under-18 camps in close cooperation with the provincial unions of Northland, North Harbour and Auckland and with the schools in the region.
“The Covid restrictions continue to be a barrier for our young players but the schools have responded well and these young players are among those we believe have long-term potential and will gain considerably from this experience,” said King.
“We continue to reach out across the Blues region to focus on education and development with our young players, and the young men named in these teams will have a clearer picture of the pathway for them and how they can best achieve their goals.”
Two coaches from the Blues region will be involved in the match, with Sacred Heart coach Gus Leger to assist with the New Zealand Schools team under Hurricanes coach Chris Gibbes and James Hantz (Auckland Grammar) with the Barbarian side under former Black Ferns Sevens coach, Allan Bunting. Both coaches have been involved with Blues age teams in the past.
A further match for the New Zealand Māori Under 18 team, and the 2021 New Zealand Māori Under 18 Mareikura Girls team, will be announced in due course.
The players from the Blues region selected are:
New Zealand Secondary Schools team: Tony Tafa (Prop, Kelston Boys), Matt Monaghan (Lock, Kings College), Che Clarke (Loose forward, Kings College), Gage Jackson (Loose forward, Auckland Grammar), Riley Williams (Halfback), Auckland Grammar), Francis Manuleleua (midfield, Kings College), Essendon Tuitupou (midfield, Kelston Boys), Esau Filimoehala (Wing, Auckland Grammar), Chicago Doyle (Fullback, Kings College).
New Zealand Barbarians Schools team:
Faka’aongo Lea’aemanu (Prop, Auckland Grammar), Sam Hainsworth (Loose forward, Grammar Tech), Senita Lauaki (No 8, Kelston Boys), Sam Howling (Halfback, Kelston Boys), Ajay Faleafaga (First Five, St Peter’s College), Jeremiah Asi (Outside back, St Peter’s College), Lucas Payne (Wing, Dargaville High School).
New Zealand Under-18 Maori:
Cullen Gray (First-five, Auckland Grammar), Jade Stewart (First-five, St Kentigern College).