Australian Under-20 coach Adrian Thompson has named an experienced side to face Ireland on Thursday morning AEST in their opening match of the IRB Junior World Championship in France.
The starting side, captained by Curtis Browning, features seven players with previous Under-20 experience and five 2012 Australian Schoolboys. The reserves bench also boasts two members of last year’s Under-20 squad.
The Irish have had the benefit of the under-20 Six Nations as preparation and Thompson knows they will bring a serious physical presence to the match.
“Ireland will be tough. We will need to match them physically if we are to win this game,” Thompson said.
“Preparation has been good and the boys are excited for the first game.”
Five members of the starting forward pack have previous Junior World Championship experience.
In the front row, loosehead Silatolu Latu, hooker Maile Ngauamo and tightead Oliver Hoskins were all members of last year’s Australian Under-20 campaign.
In the second row, Senio Toleafoa also played in last year’s Junior World Championship, but for the Samoan Under 20s. He is joined by 2012 Australian Schoolboys lock Tom Staniforth.
The back row features further Australian Schoolboys experience in 2011 representative Michael Wells at blindside and 2012 player Jack Dempsey at openside. Locking up the scrum is their captain, Browning, who brings with him both Australian Under-20 and Super Rugby experience.
The backline features two members of last year’s Junior World Championship side, along with three 2012 Australian Schoolboys and a representative of Australia’s Sevens development side.
A former age-grade representative in both Rugby and rugby league, Ben Meehan starts the backline at scrumhalf, linking with 2012 Australian Schoolboys flyhalf Jake McIntyre.
The centres pairing sees Queensland Reds Extended Player Squad and 2012 Australian Under-20s representative Ulupano Seuteni joined by Lalakai Foketi of the 2012 Australian Schoolboys program.
Kicking off the back three at blind wing, Alex Northam will earn his first Australian Under-20 cap after being brought into the squad last year as a late injury change, but not taking the field in Australia’s final game of the tournament.
At open wing is Harry Parker, who brings with him the experience of having represented Australia’s Sevens development side, the Aussie Thunderbolts.
Finally, at fullback, 2012 Australian Schoolboys representative Jonah Placid, the youngest member of this year Australian Under-20 touring party.
Thompson has chosen a five-three split on the bench. Hooker Andrew Ready is joined by 2012 Australian Under-20 props Pettowa Paraka and Allan Alaalatoa as front row replacements.
New South Wales Schools 2012 loose forward Ofiu Manukeu-Archibald and Patrick Sio, brother of Brumbies prop Scott, round out the forward replacements.
Backing up at scrumhalf is Waldo Wessels, who won a Bronze medal as part of Australia’s Youth Commonwealth Games Sevens side in 2011. He is joined by utility back Luke Burton, a former West Australian Schoolboys rep, and Queensland Schoolboys centre Henry Taefu.
The Australian Under 20s face Ireland in their opening match of the IRB Junior World Championship at Stade de la Rabine in Vannes, France, at 2:45am (AEST) on Thursday 6 June.
The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1HD, with coverage starting at 2:30am AEST/ 12.30AM AWST / 2.00AM ACST
Australian Under 20s v Ireland
Click to view Australian Under-20 bios online
1 Silatolu Latu NSW
2 Maile Ngauamo QLD
3 Oliver Hoskins WA
4 Senio Toleafoa NSW
5 Tom Staniforth ACT
6 Michael Wells NSW
7 Jack Dempsey NSW
8 Curtis Browning (c) QLD
9 Ben Meehan QLD
10 Jake McIntyre NSW
11 Alex Northam NSW
12 Ulupano Seuteni QLD
13 Lalakai Foketi NSW
14 Harry Parker QLD
15 Jonah Placid QLD
16 Andrew Ready QLD
17 Pettowa Paraka QLD
18 Allan Alaalatoa NSW
19 Ofiu Manukeu-Archibald NSW
20 Patrick Sio NSW
21 Waldo Wessels NSW
22 Luke Burton WA
23 Henry Taefu QLD
Australian Under-20 IRB Junior World Championship draw
VENUE Stade de la Rabine in Vannes
6 June, 2:45am (AEST) V Ireland
10 June, 4:45am (AEST) V New Zealand
14 June, 4:45am (AEST) V Fiji