Australia's U20s have bulked up ahead of their final, must-win, pool match against England on Thursday morning (AEST).
In the forwards, head coach Adrian Thompson has looked to add size to the pack, with Queensland Reds lock Lukhan Tui promoted to a starting second row spot and Melbourne U20s flanker Ikapote Tupai set to earn his first cap of the tournament.
With the team’s toughest challenge ahead of them, Tupai has been brought into the starting side with a remit to throw his weight around and bring a new level of physical intensity to the game.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to start, it’s a real privilege and honour to put on the green and gold jersey and get out there and play with the rest of the team,” hesaid.
A member of the Melbourne Unicorns Rugby club, Tupai will be the third Melbourne forward to feature in the Australian U20s side, with Jordan Uelese and Rob leota both playing in the opening two matches.
Having watched his Melbourne U20s teammates perform for the Australian U20s from the sidelines in Manchester, Tupai is looking forward to joining them on field.
“I’ve been playing with Jordan and Rob for a long time and it will be great to play a game with them at this level. Having them out there will help me feel comfortable on field.
“I think I just need to play my natural game, bring my aggression, carry the ball and make the most of the opportunity.”
In the backs, Thompson’s ‘Mr Fix It’, Liam Jurd, has also been promoted from the bench to the starting line-up. He’ll feature at outside centre, with Sione Tuipulotu shifting to inside centre.
Like Tupai, Jurd is excited to start, but he is aware of the challenge before the team.
“I’m really excited, it’s a huge privilege any time you get to play for your country,” said Jurd.
“This week we have brought it back to basics, we need to be aggressive and dominate at the tackle point, use our big players to get around the corner and then spread it wide.”
Australia will face England in their final pool game of the tournament on Wednesday, kicking off at 4:45am AEST on Thursday morning in Australia. Fans can watch the game LIVE on FOXSPORTS 2 502