The Blues have named an exciting and talent-laden squad for the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa Under-20 tournament starting in Taupo on Sunday.
The 28-strong Ganellen Blues Under-20s will play three games at the tournament, starting with the Crusaders on Sunday with further games against a Barbarians side and final clash against the Hurricanes.
The team is coached by the Blues Wilsher Scholarship recipient, Steven Bates with assistants Gus Leger and Dan Bowden.
It includes two members of the Blues Super Rugby team in hooker Soane Vikena, last year’s Blues Development player of the year, and outside back Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, a member of the All Blacks Sevens squad last year. Both will be available for the opening game on Sunday while the Blues are on bye week.
The side is laden with leaders with hooker Ray Sua, former captain at Kelston Boys; Leandro Vakatini captained Kings; Chlayton Frans was captain of Westlake Boys while fellow loosies Cam Church and Will Bason were rugby captain and head boy respectively at St Kents.
A number of players have earned national school selection including hooker Hanz Leota (Auckland), locks James Brown (Auckland) and Allan Craig (Northland); loose forward Vaiolini Ekuasi, who was in the Auckland Mitre-10 Cup squad this year; halfback Manu Paea, first five Christian Stenhouse, and midfielder Meihana Grindlay, while fellow midfielder Corey Evans was in the Wider national under-20 squad 2020.
There are players with strong family links to sporting success including Auckland prop Josh Fusitua, a brother of Warriors player David Fusitua and loose forward Wallace Sititi (Auckland), whose father Semo played in the Rugby World Cup for Manu Samoa.
Others multi-sporting talents in their background including captain Cam Church, a competitive age-group swimmer, Bason was a water polo prospect and midfielder Sage Shaw-Tait was part of the Tuatara pro baseball squad.
They warmed up with a 26-12 win over the Chiefs before final preparations for Taupo.
The Ganellen Blues U20s will play the Crusaders at 3pm on Sunday 11 April; the Barbarians at 11.30am on Wednesday 14 April and the Hurricanes at 3pm on Saturday 17 April.
All games will be live on Sky Television.
The team is:
Hooker: Soane Vikena (Blues), Ray Sua (Auckland), Hanz Leota (Auckland); Prop: Leandro Vakatini (Auckland), Josh Fusitua (Auckland), Esile Fono (Northland), Sione Ahio (Auckland), Ryan Mead (North Harbour); Lock: James Brown (Auckland), Allan Craig (Northland), Josh Beehre (Auckland); Loose forward: Wallace Sititi (Auckland), Chlayton Frans (North Harbour), Cam Church (Auckland, Captain), Will Bason (Auckland), Jordan Hutchings (Auckland); No 8: Vaiolini Ekuasi (Auckland); Halfback: Manu Paea (Auckland), Dayton Iobu (Auckland); First five: Christian Stenhouse (Auckland), Jock McKenzie (Auckland); Midfield: Meihana Grindlay (Auckland), Corey Evans (Auckland), Sage Shaw-Tait (Auckland); Wing: Joel Cobb (Auckland), Ryan Nankivell (Auckland); Fullback: Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Blues), Sofai Maka (Auckland).
Coaches: Steven Bates, Gus Leger, Dan Bowden.
CAPTION: Winger Joel Cobb scores for the Ganellen Blues Under-20s in their warm-up win 26-12 over the Chiefs. (Credit: Richard Spranger Photography)