NZ U20 side named for JWC opener

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New Zealand open their campaign against first-timers Georgia, who qualified this year by winning the Tier Two competition. 

Head coach Scott Robertson feels the Super Rugby players have brought both leadership and professionalism to a young team that also includes nine players who will be eligible to play again next year.

"The Super Rugby boys have been superb around leadership and the professional day to day conduct, and they understand how a professional environment works," Robertson told the official All Blacks website.

"They’ve definitely lifted the standard and improved the willingness of the young players. 

"As a coach that’s what you want, the experienced players in the team to be driving it, because we’ve got nine young players who will be looking up to them.

"These guys bring their leadership and they understand the game well, so we’ve got a really good balance.

"Our captain Leni Apisai brings strengths from the Hurricanes and Shaun Stevenson has come in from being in a Chiefs environment.

Highlanders centre Patelesio (Sio) Tomkinson also debuts for the team and has been widely tipped as one of the tournament players to watch, while Jordan Trainor who has been involved in the Blues squad, sits out the first game.

Robertson expects some tough competition from all three Pool A opponents Georgia, Ireland and Wales, and has placed a great emphasis on ensuring his team is well-prepared to take on each challenge.

"We arrived a day early to acclimatise and get our body clocks right. We’re making sure we prepare well and we’ve really taken on the learnings from last year – about the basic pressure, confronting the times when things are tough, but importantly to enjoy touring together," he said.

"Our game planning doesn’t change very much, it’s still 80:20, 80% yourself and 20% them. We really respect everyone when we prepare to play them. For opposition players, they are going to play the test match of their lives because they want to play against and beat New Zealand, and so it’s really important we respect those we play against.

"It’s the first time we’ve come up against Georgia. They love anything in the contact area, they love a drive, they love a scrum, and they’re very similar to an Argentinian or French team. They’re big and strong – it’ll be a bit of Greco-Roman wrestling!"

New Zealand U20: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Caleb Makene, 13 Patelesio Tomkinson, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Jonah Lowe, 10 TJ Va’a, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Mitchell Jacobson, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Sosefo Kautai, 2 Leni Apisai (c), 1 Ayden Johnstone
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Shaun Stodart, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Hamish Dalzell, 20 Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Malo Tuitama