Two Southland players have been named in the New Zealand under 20 rugby team for next month's Oceania Championship in Australia.
Former Southland Boys' High School team mates Flynn Thomas and Jay Renton both made their debuts for the Stags last year.
Thomas was the understudy for Southland skipper Brayden Mitchell last year, while Renton was not contracted at the start of the season but claimed his opportunity when injury struck both Liam Howley and Jahvis Wallace, ending the campaign as the Stags' starting No 9.
New Zealand under 20 head coach Craig Philpott told AllBlacks.com that more than 60 players had been involved in the camps to this point, which makes final selection a tough process.
“We feel we have selected a team that is capable of playing the New Zealand brand of rugby. This is a skilful group of well-conditioned athletes who are also good young men,” said Philpott.
Canterbury’s Tom Christie will captain the team. The loose forward was a member of the 2017 World Championship winning squad, has Mitre 10 Cup experience and spent time with the Crusaders during the pre-season.
"Tom understands what is required to be involved in a successful World Championship campaign. He comes out of a strong professional environment and is a quality leader who we are confident will meet the challenge head on.”
Alongside Christie, there are five returning players who played in the Oceania Championships last year, as well as six players who will be eligible again in 2019.
The squad will assemble in Auckland next month before departing for the Gold Coast on 24 April.
“This tournament is crucial in our World Championship preparation. It’s the opportunity to take the group away for two weeks, get to know them more closely and for them to understand the responsibilities that come with wearing the black jersey.
“It also sees us play three games in 12 days which mirrors pool play in the World Championship so that helps players to understand what is required in terms of recovery and self-management,” said Philpott.
The Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship will see New Zealand play matches against Tonga (27 April), Fiji (1 May) and Australia (5 May). The team will be looking to claim the fifth title in as many years.
The World Rugby Under 20 Championship kicks off in France in May. New Zealand will face Japan, Wales and Australia in pool play.
The squad is;
John Akau'ola-Laula - Auckland
Suetena Asomua - Counties Manukau
Tom Christie (Captain) - Canterbury
Rob Cobb - Auckland
Devan Flanders - Hawke's Bay
Tom Florence - Taranaki
Ricky Jackson - Otago
Tevita Mafileo - Bay of Plenty
Laghlan McWhannell - Waikato
Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa - Auckland
Bradley Slater - Taranaki
Hoskins Sotutu - Auckland
Flynn Thomas - Southland
Will Tucker - Canterbury
Kaliopasi Uluilakepa - Wellington
Leicester Faingaanuku - Tasman
Will Jordan - Tasman
Vilimoni Koroi - Otago
Ciarahn Matoe - Taranaki
Harry Plummer - Auckland
Carlos Price - Wellington
Billy Proctor - Wellington
Ngane Punivai - Canterbury
Jay Renton - Southland
Xavier Roe - Waikato
Bailyn Sullivan - Waikato
Tanielu Tele'a - Auckland
Kaleb Trask - Bay of Plenty
2- 3 players to be named
Players not considered due to Super Rugby commitments
Caleb Clarke - Blues
Players not considered due to injury
Tim Farrell - Hawke's Bay
Brayden Iose - Manawatu
Ajay Mua - Bay of Plenty
Xavier Numia - Wellington
Cameron Suafoa - Auckland
Sheldon Tovio - Waikato