Matching scrum power of European teams the key for New Zealand Under 20s
After battling at scrum time at the last Junior World Championship, New Zealand Under 20s coach Craig Philpott is determined to ensure that is not repeated again this year.
Philpott, in his first year as the team's head coach after taking over from Scott Robertson, has assembled the team for their second training camp at the Sport and Rugby Institute in Palmerston North this week.
The camp started with a tight five training camp under the guidance of All Blacks assistant coach Mike Cron and will finish with two trial matches against the Hurricanes and Chiefs under-20s sides on Saturday.
Cron said it was an important opportunity for him to work with some of the country's best up and coming players.
"This is our conveyor belt," he said. "This is where we produce a heap of All Blacks. I come down, I get to meet the boys, I get to know them and understand them a bit and them help them get ready for the world cup. If I meet them in Super [Rugby] in the future I know them, I can relate to them and if they make the All Blacks, I already know them and have already coached them."
Cron admitted the Kiwi players usually have some catching up to do at set piece for the tournament.
"In New Zealand we are a wee bit behind other countries in terms of physical strength," he said. "We do not put emphasis on strength programmes when they are young and I think is fine. At 16, let them play and learn their body, in a couple of year's time they catch up to the overseas teams."
Philpott said after seeing what happened to the side in 2016, he would be picking his props based on the core role of scrummaging first.
"New Zealand Rugby is about mobility and playing the game fast, that is our point of difference in world," he said. "But in my involvement with this tournament in the past couple of years, we need to be able to hold our own at scrum time and it cost us last year. Scrummaging is a core role, particularly for tightheads. First and foremost they have to be able to do that and the other stuff is the bonus."
He was encouraged by the group they had assembled this year and believed the likely weather in Georgia would help them in their bid to win the title back from England.
"Looking at the weather in Georgia in June it is pretty dry and about 28 degrees which will play into our hands a little bit," he said. "It will mean that we are able to play the type of game that we love, but still be aware of what the opposition will bring, particularly at scrum time and lineout time because it will be quite different to what these guys have seen before."
Seven players were not available for this week's camp due to Super Rugby commitments.
Philpott was "hoping" they would be released to play.
First five-eighth Stephen Perofeta (Blues) and utility Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes) are the only two on full Super Rugby deals.
"We are well aware that those guys are professional fulltime rugby players now," he said. "New Zealand Rugby alongside us and the coaches of the New Zealand Super teams will sit down and we will negotiate what is best for that player, for our team and for our franchise as well."
Reiko Ioane, who didn't play for the team last year due to his Olympic sevens commitments, is eligible again this year.
"He is a full All Black so I doubt we will see him," Philpott said.
The team has another training camp in April ahead of the Oceania Tournament in Australia which starts in late April.
After that tournament, a squad of 28 players will be picked for the Junior World Championship in Georgia from May 25 to June 18.
New Zealand Under 20s development camp
Forwards: Dylan Lam (North Harbour), John (JP) Sauni (Auckland), Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Auckland), Jerry Samania (Auckland), Jacob Pierce (Auckland), Cameron Suafoa (Auckland), Samuel Slade (Auckland), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Adrian Choat (Auckland), Sione Tuipulotu (Counties Manukau), Sam Caird (Waikato), Shneil Singh (Waikato), Laghlan McWhannell (Waikato), Luke Jacobson (Waikato), Ryan Coxan (Waikato), Du'Plessis Kirifi (Waikato), Pouri Rakete-Stones (Hawke's Bay), Marino Mikaele -Tuu (Hawke's Bay), Brayden Iose (Manawatu), Chris Cairns (Manawatu), Asafo Aumua (Wellington), Ben Power (Wellington), Isaia Walker-Leawere (Wellington), Josh Brown (Wellington), Harrison Allan (Canterbury), Tom Christie (Canterbury), Slade McDowall (Otago).
Backs: Tamati Tua (Northland), Lewis Gjaltema (North Harbour), James Little (North Harbour), Otumaka Mausia (Auckland), Tanielu Tele'a (Auckland), Nikolai Foliaki (Auckland), Caleb Clarke (Auckland), To'o Vaega (Auckland), Orbyn Leger (Counties Manukau), Tyler Campbell (Waikato), Matt Lansdown (Waikato), Tiaan Falcon (Hawke's Bay), Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Wellington), Carlos Price (Wellington), Billy Proctor (Wellington), Tima Faingaanuku (Tasman), Ereatara Enari (Canterbury), Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Josh McKay (Canterbury), Will Jordan (Canterbury), Jona Nareki (Otago)
Not attending due to injury or Super Rugby commitments: Sheldon Tovio (Waikato), Jordie Barrett (Taranaki), Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki), Alex Fidow (Wellington), Thomas Umaga Jensen (Wellington), Peter Umaga Jensen (Wellington), Lester Maulolo (Wellington).