Curtis Browning has been named as Australia Under 20 captain for the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 in France as head coach Adrian Thompson unveiled his 28-man squad for the 5-23 June tournament.
The Queensland Reds flanker was named Australian Under 20 Player of the Year 2012 and is one of three Super Rugby players in the squad, the others being Chris Feauai-Sautia and Ulupano Seuteni.
This trio are among eight players from Australia’s squad which finished eighth at JWC 2012 in South Africa, while Samu Kerevi and Senio Toleafoa have also graced the premier age grade stage but in the colours of Fiji and Samoa.
While Australian Sevens players were unavailable for consideration due to Rugby World Cup Sevens taking place in Moscow the week after JWC 2013, the squad features 19 representatives from the Australian Rugby Union’s National Academy.
Many of the squad have been involved in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2013, including Browning , who captained the Reds College XV to victories over Tonga A and Junior Japan during the Australian series last month.
“We’ve picked good footy players, but also guys that can cope with the demands of the tournament,” said Thompson, who will be assisted by Sean Hedger and John McKee in France.
“The guys have to be very thorough in their off-field preparation and pretty mentally tough. The tournament does take a toll on the players, so we looked for guys that could handle that.
A golden opportunity
Nineteen players have gone from the Junior World Championship to play for the Wallabies since the inaugural tournament in 2008, including David Pocock, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Michael Hooper and last year's Under 20 captain Liam Gill, and Thompson is under no illusions as to the importance of the tournament to a player's development.
“This is a very important tournament for the guys and their development.
“They have a chance here to represent their country and after the Under 20s, the only opportunity to do that is with the Qantas Wallabies or the Qantas Men’s Sevens, so they need to treat that chance like gold.”
More than 50 player have attended training camps as Thompson and Hedger looked to select their best squad for a tournament that will see Australia tackle four-time champions New Zealand, Ireland and Fiji in Pool B.
“Ireland had a reasonable Six Nations, so they’ve had some really good preparation and have played a lot together,” Thompson said.
“New Zealand have won the tournament every year except for last year, so they’re always strong and Fiji finished third in their pool and went on to beat Italy, so it’s certainly a difficult pool.”
The squad will come together at Bond University in the first week of May for a first preparation camp and will face the Papua New Guinea national team in a trial on 2 May.
Australia Under 20 squad for JWC 2013
Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Mark Baldwin, Curtis Browning (captain), Jack Dempsey, Oliver Hoskins, Siotome Kavapalu, Phill Kite, Silatolu Latu, Maile Ngaumao, Matt Philip, Andrew Ready, Patrick Sio, Thomas Staniforth, Senio Toleafoa, Michael Wells.
Backs: Luke Burton, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Brad Lacey, Jake McIntyre, Ben Meehan, Jock Merriman, Alex Northam, Harry Parker, Jonah Placid, Ulupano Seuteni, Henry Taefu, Waldo Wessels.