Tonga clash a final audition for Kiwi showdown

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Matches against Fiji and Tonga are auditions for the Junior Wallabies, ahead of Saturday's finale showdown with New Zealand, coach Jason Gilmore says

Gilmore made a swathe of changes to his team ahead of its second Oceania U20s match, against Tonga, giving a new group of players the chance to force themselves into the 23 for a likely title decider against the Kiwis.

The Aussies and Kiwis had big wins in their first matches last Friday and Gilmore said he wanted to see the players show their wares ahead of that last match, to earn their spot in the team.

“We just felt it was a good opportunity to give each of the boys in the squad a chance to put their hand up and we've said to the boys all the way along we'll pick the best 23 for New Zealand,” he said.

“The boys on the first night against Fiji did a reasonable job and the boys coming in for the Tonga game, it's now their opportunity to show what they've got.”

Tate McDermott will captain the Junior Wallabies on Tuesday night. Photo: SportographyQueenslander Tate McDermott will captain the side for the first time, with Ryan Lonergan still missing from the 23.

McDermott said they were expecting a bruising encounter with Tonga.

“Tonga, you know what we're going to get with them,” he said.

“Physicality, big bodies, so I think it's really important for us not to be complacent and go out there and play the footy we saw in patches against Fiji.”

The Sunshine Coast product made his Super Rugby debut with the Reds this year and Gilmore said the scrumhalf was really showing his potential.

“He's from the Sunshine Coast, he hasn't come through the traditional pathway of schoolboys, he's just a guy that rips in and has a crack and he brings a really good running game and a lot of energy to the team,” he said.

The Junior Wallabies will take on Tonga on Tuesday night, kicking off at 5pm AEST, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.