New Zealand Under 20 ready for shot at glory

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Wet weather restricted their draw with South Africa and their win over Argentina, but they hope for fine weather for the final.

But coach Jono Gibbes said the weather had been volatile, and they had prepared for both types of conditions during the final.

Gibbes said while the tournament was preparation for all the sides before heading to World Rugby's Under-20 championship in South Africa in July, it was also about the coaches and players getting familiarised with each other.

Selection for the final was confined to 23, but those not selected had trained well and done their job to prepare the side. While it was hard, it was part of the professional game, especially as players moved through different levels.

They expect another big pack against Australia but with a different game style from South Africa and Argentina.

"What we've noticed about Australia is they have a quicker ruck speed than the others, and they have the skills in their backline, especially on the outside. They use quick ball to get it wide as fast as possible.

"The breakdown will be a key battle and I'm a forward so we always say the set piece as well."

Gibbes said the final was about everyone doing their jobs, focusing on what they must do in each moment and doing the little things as best they can.

"If we have a collective focus like that, and we execute in that way, we would put ourselves in a position, hopefully, to take out the title."

While the group were yet to be exposed to professional thinking in Super Rugby squads, Gibbes said it was about embracing their youth.

"The excitement, the enthusiasm is what's cool about this age group and this stage of their careers. You know they're motivated for a game like this. We've got to use it; it's a real strength.

"Over the couple of weeks we've been together the group has been easy to work with. There's a lot of motivated individuals and good energy around the place."

Gibbes said having All Blacks coaching panel members Jason Ryan and Leon MacDonald on hand had benefited the coaches and players.

"We benefited from their presence and exchanged ideas, which brought out some good, interesting points and highlighted different ways you can package things to get information across.

"They're going to look at how we can evolve the Under-20 pathway and investing the time of two All Blacks coaches to be here for a number of days is a strong signal that this team remains important."

Fullback Isaac Hutchinson said it was every player's dream to play in a final, especially in a black jersey.

That makes it more exciting. All the boys will be fizzing to get into it."

Wet weather conditions on the Sunshine Coast meant it had been more of a tournament for the forwards to take charge, but they were hoping for better conditions for everyone on Sunday.

"But we've just got to play our game regardless. We've got a pretty exciting backline and there's a lot of depth in there as well. It doesn't matter if the boys were starting or coming off the bench."

Hutchinson said the Australias are a sharp team, but the New Zealanders are concentrating on playing their game to get the job done.

The team enjoyed having two members of the All Blacks' coaching panel offer mentoring and quiet words to the group.

"The boys are grateful to have those kind of people in the area and we've been getting the opportunity to pick their brains whenever we can. It's pretty exciting."

Like many of the players, Hutchinson has had support. His parents have been visiting the area, and he has the support of two sisters who live in Brisbane.


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