Super Rugby players Jason Emery and Ardie Savea have both been included in the New Zealand Under 20 squad for the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 in France as the Baby Blacks look to regain their crown.
Emery, the only player in the squad who played at JWC 2012 when New Zealand saw their unbeaten run ended at 21 matches by Wales and a second loss to South Africa in the final, has impressed for the struggling Highlanders in his debut Super Rugby season.
Savea, the younger brother of IRB Junior Player of the Year 2010 and All Black wing Julian, has already impressed for New Zealand on the HSBC Sevens World Series and has earned praise for his performances for the Hurricanes over recent weeks.
Three other players are members of Super Rugby wider training squads in Joe Webber (Chiefs) and Joe Edwards and Lolagi Visinia (Blues) with the former also having played for New Zealand on the Sevens stage.
Twelve of the squad played in the ITM Cup last year and head coach Chris Boyd admitted competition for places had been difficult with many of the 48 contenders demonstrating they had worked hard on their fitness and technique over the summer.
“I think the squad we have selected has been a good balance of hard workers and natural talent. This is the culmination of a seven-month programme to identify our potential squad, and to develop those players,” Boyd said.
The squad is currently assembled in Palmerston North and will remain together for training until Sunday. They will come together again on 27 May in Auckland and face the Blues Development side two days later before they leave for France.
New Zealand will face Fiji, Australia and Ireland in Pool B at JWC 2013 with only the winner guaranteed a place in the semi-finals of the premier age grade competition which the Baby Blacks won from 2008 to 2011.
New Zealand Under 20 squad:
Forwards: Donald Brighouse (Wellington), Epalahame Faiva (Waikato), Nick Grogan (Manawatu), Alexander Hodgman (Canterbury), Sione Mafileo (North Harbour), Kalafi Pongi (Counties Manukau), Boyd Wiggins (North Harbour), Scott Barrett (Canterbury), Jackson Hemopo (Otago), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), Christopher Vui (Auckland), Adam Burn (Waikato), Joseph Edwards (Auckland), Jordan Manihera (North Harbour), Hadleigh May (Otago), Ardie Savea (Wellington).
Backs: Tayler Adams (Southland), Sheridan Rangihuna (Hawke’s Bay), Simon Hickey (Auckland), Jade Te Rure (Manawatu), Michael Collins (Otago), Jason Emery (Manawatu), Fa’asiu Fuatai (Otago), Teihorangi Walden (Otago), Penikolo Latu (Hawke’s Bay), Leroy Van Dam (Auckland), Lolagi Visinia (Auckland), Joseph Webber (Waikato).