New Zealand Under 20s preparations underway in Hawke's Bay

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There's a strong Crusaders influence in the squad, particularly in the forwards stocks. One of those Crusaders picks actually played for the champion senior team this season.


Hooker George Bell is a product of John McGlashan College in Dunedin, one of the biggest improvers in First XV rugby the past handful of seasons. He's made a big impression since moving to Christchurch flourishing at the Lincoln club and making the Crusaders U20 team for the 2021 Bunnings Warehouse Super Rugby tournament. He scored a crucial try in a victory against the Blues and a gallant hat trick against the formidable Chiefs. 


On May 7, 2022 he became Crusader 265 when he debuted for the senior Crusaders against the Force. He scored a try in the 53-15 win in Perth. A fortnight later he returned to the Crusaders U20’s for a second crack at the Bunnings Warehouse series.


He scored tries against the unbeaten New Zealand Barbarians and a 35-metre solo stunner against the Blues. The Crusaders avenged their 2021 loss to the Chiefs with Bell a dominant figure at set piece time. The New Zealand U20’s represents the next logical step in the promising youngsters' development. 


“Camp has been awesome. It’s a really great bunch of boys who are bonding nicely and getting stuck into rugby content,” Bell said.


“I know a lot of the boys already and it's great to be connecting again.


“We want to go well in Aussie, get a few wins under our belts, but have a good time and make new friends.”


George Bell (R) with fellow NZ U20s squad member Seb Calder after making their Crusaders debut


Joe Brial has made plenty of new friends since arriving in New Zealand in 2020. The No 8 is the son of former Wallaby Michael Brial and plays with similar heart and brutality.


In 2019 Joe made the Australian Secondary Schools' team out of Scots College, Sydney. They beat New Zealand 18-14 in Hamilton, New Zealand’s first loss to Australia since 2012. 


“I got an opportunity with the Crusaders Academy in Christchurch and they are the best at what they do so I jumped at it,” Brial said about making the move across the ditch.


“I’ve got quite a few mates in the Aussie team from that schools’ test so it will be good to give it to them.”


Brial is studying a Bachelor of Land and Property Management at Lincoln University. He doesn’t have the local contacts Bell enjoys but he’s learning quickly.


“Making connections with the boys and coaches and being in a professional environment is the biggest thing I’ve taken out of camp,” he said.


Joe Brial playing for the Crusaders Under 20 side in Taupō


“We’ve got a strong team. I’m looking forward to testing our ability.” 


Tom Donnelly played 15 tests for the All Blacks in 2009 and 2010. The former lock is coach of the New Zealand team having plied his trade with Otago in the Bunnings NPC. Donnelly is excited by how the young team is coming together.


“It’s been a really good few days in the sunny Hawke’s Bay. The first couple of days was bonding and then we got stuck into footy content.


“It’s a great opportunity for these young lads who through no fault of their own missed a lot of rugby because of Covid. It’s awesome to come here as a national team and get a few games under our belt.


“The amount of talent we’ve got in New Zealand is amazing. The whole squad is impressive, but it will be a great challenge to see exactly where we are at, in Australia. 


“First and foremost our goal is to put together a performance we're really proud of and if we do that we’ll get the results we are after.”

2022 Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship


New Zealand v Fiji

Friday 1 July, kick off 5pm

Sunshine Coast Stadium


New Zealand v Argentina

Tuesday 5 July, kick off 2pm

Sunshine Coast Stadium


New Zealand v Australia

Sunday 10 July, kick off 4pm

Sunshine Coast Stadium


Follow all the action on the NZR Next Generation Facebook page HERE.



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