NZ U20s feeling the heat

International
Chris Ford Profile
by Chris Ford

New Zealand have been feeling the heat on the Gold Coast with an unseasonably hot Autumn stinging the tourists in the lead-up to the two-match ‘Junior Bledisloe’ series.

Humidity has topped 90% on Queensland’s south coast as the Junior All Blacks continue their preparations for next month’s World Rugby Junior Championship.

Before the tournament in Manchester, the Kiwis face off in a two-match series against Australia U20s in what’s being billed as the ‘Junior Bledisloe’, but have struggled adapting to the searing heat on the Sunshine State.

New Zealand U20s captain Leni Apisai with the Oceania Junior Rugby Championship“The boys aren’t used to the heat especially the guys from Dunedin and further south…Hopefully it cools down a bit seeing as it's a 6.30pm game,” New Zealand captain Leni Apisai said.

“We assembled about a week ago in Auckland, had a game against the (Auckland) Blues development squad before coming over here and trying to get used to this heat. It’s pretty hot here,” Apisai said.

Australia’s lead-up hasn’t been any easier with four players going down injured in live training sessions as the squad ups the ante in their quest to break the run of outs at the annual Junior World Championships.

Australia U20s captain Maclean Jones in a live scrum sessionIt will be a new experience for Australia captain Maclean Jones, not just skippering his nation for the first time but also facing the haka.

“It’s something you take in, something that will fire the boys up I think,” Jones said.

“We have to overcome that and not let it get into our heads, we’ll pay our respects then get stuck into the game.”

Maclean Jones starred for Queensland in the Super U20s Championship. Photo: ARU MediaFor his counterpart Apisai, it’s about practicing what he’s seen at club level. The Hurricanes hooker is back-up to star All Black Dane Coles for the Wellington-based franchise.

“Me and Colesy do a lot of work together and he’s just an absolute role model to me, not just as a hooker but also as a captain as well. He’s a great lad and great to be under his wing,” Apisai said.

The first of the two-match series kicks off Tuesday 3 May at 6.30pm, with a live stream at rugby.com.au.

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