IRB ju­niors take the field in France

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By OLIVER POWNALL

Auck­land’s young rugby stars are in­vad­ing France.

New Zealand’s IRB Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship cam­paign be­gins in Vannes on the west coast of France today against Fiji, with a very strong Auck­land con­tin­gent in the squad to chal­lenge for the cup.

Patrick Tuip­u­lotu from Pon­sonby and Si­mon Hickey from Gram­mar Carl­ton will be look­ing to keep up the his­tory of strong New Zealand per­for­mances at the tour­na­ment.

New Zealand has held the ti­tle since its in­cep­tion in 2008, win­ning four straight ti­tles be­fore los­ing 22-16 to South Africa in last year’s fi­nal.

The 2013 side will be look­ing to cre­ate its own legacy, while aveng­ing last year’s de­feat.

‘‘The cup be­longs in New Zealand. Our ex­pec­ta­tion is that we are the best team in the world,’’ Tuip­u­lotu says.

‘‘There is huge pres­sure on the New Zealand Un­der 20s as we are an awe­some rugby na­tion,’’ Hickey says.

‘‘Ev­ery year has a dif­fer­ent side so we are look­ing for­ward rather than look­ing back at past re­sults.’’

Auck­land Rugby Union player de­vel­op­ment man­ager Ant Stra­chan says these two play­ers have ben­e­fited from the ARU High Per­for­mance Acad­emy Pro­gramme.

‘‘Patrick is an out­stand­ing young man who has con­tin­ued to grow within the ARU High Per­for­mance Pro­gramme. He is tech­ni­cally and tac­ti­cally very pro­fi­cient as well as dis­play­ing mas­sive po­ten­tial as a leader in the fu­ture.’’

Tuip­u­lotu has been a rock in the Pon­sonby for­ward pack, con­trol­ling the li­ne­out in a po­si­tion pre­vi­ously held by Andy Hay­den, Troy Flavell, and Ali Wil­liams at Pon­sonby.

Hickey has al­ready had a suc­cess­ful start to his rugby ca­reer, win­ning last year’s Gal­la­her Shield with Gram­mar Carl­ton and play­ing for Auck­land in the ITM Cup.

‘‘Si­mon is a gifted ath­lete who plays the game with ma­tu­rity be­yond his years – a post-school player who has pro­gressed rapidly and now has a great op­por­tu­nity to lead his coun­try to a world ti­tle,’’ Stra­chan says.

The New Zealand Un­der 20s en­vi­ron­ment is a proven step­ping stone for de­vel­op­ing young play­ers into fu­ture All Blacks, with 16 of the 38-man All Blacks 2013 train­ing squad be­ing for­mer New Zealand un­der 20s rep­re­sen­ta­tives since 2008.

The cur­rent crop of play­ers will be look­ing to em­u­late the feats of the pre­vi­ous All Black grad­u­ates.

‘‘There is a strong fo­cus from the NZRU, and it should help us all im­prove as play­ers,’’ Hickey says.

‘‘It means a lot to be in this team – it is re­ward for years of hard work but is a step­ping stone for us to gain higher hon­ours,’’ Tuip­u­lotu says.


Charg­ing on: Patrick Tuip­u­lotu is a mem­ber of New Zealand’s IRB Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship team.


Tak­ing off: Si­mon Hickey and his New Zealand IRB Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship team-mates take on Fiji today.

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