With no World Cup until 2023, the sixth edition of the Oceania tournament represents the only opportunity for the best and brightest Under 20 prospects to wear their national colours in 2022.
New Zealand have won the tournament four times in five visits but were humbled by Australia in 2019. Unfortunately the forwards didn’t deliver but that shouldn’t be an issue in 2022.
Props Monu Moli and Mason Tupaea are brothers of All Blacks while hooker George Bell has already played for the Crusaders and monster lock Fabian Holland for the Highlanders. Fellow lock Tahlor Cahill was named the DJ Graham Memorial Medal winner at the Bunnings Warehouse Super Rugby U20 tournament in May. Joe Brial, Wallace Sititi and Peter Lakai offer mobility, power and versatility in the loose.
In the backs, halfback Noah Hotham played with maturity beyond his years in Super Rugby U20 while second-five Riley Higgins has already scored 19 tries in 13 games for his premier club side Petone in Wellington and debuted for the Hurricanes against Fijian Dura as a 19 year-old. Mackay Springer is a fullback in Crusaders country who is quick on his feet and has an eye for a gap. He’ll be hoping to emulate Will Jordan who scored two tries in a 43-6 win against Australia in 2017.
Since 2015 New Zealand have won 12 of 14 games at the tournament, averaging 52 points per game.
Australia are the reigning champions, beating New Zealand 24-0 to secure the last title in May 2019. New Wallaby Fraser McReight was especially damaging in that game scoring a try and winning a bundle of turnovers in the seven jersey.
Australia charged on that year to make the World Championship final, losing in heartbreaking fashion to France 24-23. Angus Bell, Harry Wilson and Noah Lolesio have all become Wallabies from that tussle.
Tellingly Australian Schools’ beat New Zealand Schools’ in 2019. It was their first victory against New Zealand since 2012 suggesting Australia has depth and health in the age group space.
Australia’s 2022 squad is comprised of two ACT Brumbies, 12 NSW Waratahs, seven Queensland Reds, five Melbourne Rebels and four from the Western Force - either from within the Super Rugby squads, or their respective academies
Reds halfback Kalani Thomas and Rebels flyer Lukas Ripley are perhaps the most noteworthy talents. Siosifa Amone, Luke Callan, Thomas, Floyd Aubrey, Mac Grealy, Teddy Wilson, Adrian Brown and Titi Nofoagatatoa are players to keep an eye on.
Argentina is on debut at the Oceania Championship but their past pedigree includes a third place finish at the 2016 World Championship and fourth spot at the last tourney.
Argentina has an academy system many of the players are involved with. A lot of the talent feature in the Superliga Americana de Rugby (SLAR) competition which is a professional six club competition involving Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Mateo Albanese is a quality halfback and likely captain of Los Pumitas. Tomás Elizalde is a back from Salta back who started the season with Los Pumas 7's before an ankle injury put him out of contention.
Pedro Rubiolo, Eliseo Chiavassa, Martín Villar, Aitor Bildosola and Tomás Suárez Folch are highly regarded prospects.
Fiji are largely made-up of local players with 24 of the 29-man squad from the Islands. Most players are participating in the development and senior level of the Skipper Cup, Fiji’s premier rugby competition that involves eight teams and has been running since 1963.
Tevita Boseiwaqa has been playing for the Kumeu Premiers in Northland and Tremain Little was selected out of Pakuranga. Stade Francais player Jeniro Wakeham has a big reputation and Canberra based Luke Tudulu is familiar with the Aussie approach and conditions. Luke and Waisea Tudulu are brothers who play in the forwards from Bau in Tailevu, but were both raised in Australia.
They have won the Trophy section of the Oceania tournament, stepping up to the championship in 2018 and 2019. Fiji was 11th at the 2019 World Cup and promises to bring trademark unpredictability, physicality and flair.
All games will be broadcast live on Spark Sport in New Zealand.
Friday 1 July - Sunshine Coast Stadium
New Zealand v Fiji, kick off 7pm NZT
Australia v Argentina, kick off 9pm NZT
Sunshine Coast Stadium
Tuesday 5 July - Sunshine Coast Stadium
New Zealand v Argentina, kick off 4pm NZT
Australia v Fiji, kick off 6pm NZT
Sunday 10 July - Sunshine Coast Stadium
Fiji v Argentina, kick off 4pm NZT
New Zealand v Australia, kick off 6pm NZT
A bit of history
The concept of national colts teams began in 1955 when a New Zealand Under 21 team toured Australia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka since 1972) and won all nine matches. Colin Meads was on the tour.
Between 1955 and 2007 the New Zealand U21 team played 151 games and had 117 wins, and that includes two World Under 21 Championship successes in 2003 and 2004. Typically the Colts would play internally against local opposition.
In 2008 the current incarnation of international U20 play commenced. New Zealand has fashioned a 49-12 record in the World Championship winning six times from 2008 to 2011 and again in 2015 and 2017. That is the best record of any country at the event.
It’s worth noting too that the World Under 19 Championships were contested between 1999 and 2007 with New Zealand winning the tournament in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2007. They won 34, drew 2 and lost 3 games.
Will Jordan, Luke Jacobson, Julian Savea, Damian McKenzie, Stephen Donald, Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Brad Weber and TJ Perenara are just some of the All Blacks to pass through the U20 team.