Under-19 training squad trimmed

The Southland under-19 rugby training squad has been trimmed as the buildup to the first national under-19 tournament continues.

New Zealand Rugby Union has introduced the tournament to help with New Zealand under-20 selection and to also assist with the drop-off in players when they leave school, which the NZRU has highlighted as an area of concern.

The competition will feature 16 teams, with each of the 14 top-tier provincial unions having a team. The other two teams will be an extra Auckland side and a team made up of players from Heartland unions.

The 16 teams will be split into four pools of four teams, who will play each other before the competition in Taupo, which will be held from September 27 to October 4.

Southland will be part of a pool that includes Otago, Canterbury and Tasman.

The first pre-tournament game for Southland will be against Canterbury in Christchurch on August 23. Southland have trimmed the squad down to 25, although that excludes four players who are part of the wider Stags training squad.

Those four players are Mike Molloy, Bill Fukofuka, Jaye Thompson and Jethro Felemi.

Those players will drop down to the under-19 team if they are not used by the Stags.

Southland under-19 coach Rodger Dawson said rules stated they are not allowed to pick players still at school. They have limited pool of only 120 under-19 players to pick from in Southland but was still confident in the squad they had put together.

"We're pretty happy with the squad; probably 90 per cent of that squad is playing prem rugby at the moment so we should have a pretty strong team."

As well as the official national under-19 games, Southland will also have fixtures against Canterbury Country Colts and the Otago Maori Colts.

Dawson said they would also likely have a hit against Southland Country to help their preparation.


The Southland Times