Kiwi scalp vital for Australia U20s

Brenden Hertell
by Brendan Hertel

Having never finished higher than New Zealand at the World Rugby U20s Championship, the Australia U20s have the chance to make history in their final game of the 2016 tournament against New Zealand this Saturday, 25 June.

With the two teams having faced off earlier this year at the Oceania Rugby U20s Championship at Bond University, the current ledger is one-win-a-piece from their two Test matches so far in 2016. Saturday's match provides both the teams the chance to claim bragging rights for the year.

Australia's 25-24 win over New Zealand in their second Test match at Bond was their first ever over the Kiwis. The team have still never beaten New Zealand at a World Rugby U20s Championship though, a scalp that head coach Adrian Thompson would be happy to return home with.

“This game is more than just a fifth-place play-off, it’s a great opportunity to play New Zealand again,” Thompson said.

“Other than winning the World Championship, the next best thing is to play New Zealand and beat them, which we haven’t done before at the tournament.

Australia U20s recorded their first ever win against New Zealand in May. Photo: Sportography

“Having beaten New Zealand earlier this year, a second win over them would be great for the team and allows us to head into next year with confidence in the program moving forward.”

Following the match against Scotland, the team need to focus on recovery and ensuring they’re physically ready ahead of clash against New Zealand.

“The match against Scotland was a physical encounter. We need to ensure the players get through their recovery and get their bodies ready before we start looking at selection ahead of the match.”

With trans-Tasman bragging pride on the line, the playing group are up for the challenge with the rare chance to play New Zealand for a third time in a season.

For Brumbies centre Jordan Jackson-Hope, he only played in one of the two matches at Bond against New Zealand. Having played in the two sides’ opening encounter, where Australia fell 30-10, Jackson-Hope was ruled out of the second match where Australia levelled the score.

After impressing off the bench against Scotland, crossing for the sides’ final try, Jackson-Hope would relish in the chance to take part in another match against New Zealand.

“I missed the second game on the Gold Coast and the team won that match. If I get that chance to play against New Zealand again that would be unreal, if that opportunity comes my way I’ll grab it with both hands,” Jackson-Hope said.

“Every moment you get in the Australian jersey you have to take and we have a special group here.”

Australia takes on New Zealand in the fifth-place playoff at 1:45am AEST on Sunday.