Simon Hickey has been unveiled as captain of IRB Junior World Championship 2014 hosts New Zealand, the fly half one of the most experienced members in the squad having recently been the preferred choice for the Blues in Super Rugby.
A member of the Blues wider training squad, Hickey is one of three members of the squad with previous experience of the Under 20 tournament having played alongside hooker Epalahame Faiva as New Zealand finished fourth in 2013. Mathew Peni, meanwhile, played for Samoa last year.
“We think Simon will provide some great leadership for the team given his experience both on the field and in this team environment,” Boyd said of the player expected to join the team in May at their pre-tournament camp in Mt Maunganui.
Boyd, in his second year as head coach, admitted the coaching team had been impressed with the standard of talent on offer, including during Monday’s intense trial match in Palmerston North which gave them a strong indication of what players would bring to the team.
“We’re pretty happy with the squad we have selected. We’ve got a very hard working and efficient forward pack supported by a very exciting backline with plenty of talent.
“We expect to play a traditional New Zealand style of rugby – high tempo and expansive style of rugby. At the same time, we know that we will need to be strong on defence to off-set other areas of our game.”
Special occasion to play at home
New Zealand dominated the first four years of the Junior World Championship, winning the titles without losing a single match, but were runners-up in 2012 and then finished fourth in France last year.
The opportunity to play at home though is a rare opportunity the players are eager to exploit.
“The boys are aware that this is a special occasion to be playing a tournament in our own back yard,” admitted Boyd. “They are looking forward to the challenge of playing at home, but they are also relishing the opportunity to showcase their style of rugby in front of family and friends.
“We are excited that we’ll be able to play in front of our families and we are looking forward to some fantastic support from them and anyone who’s a New Zealand supporter.”
New Zealand, who will remain in camp until Saturday, will face South Africa, Samoa and Scotland in Pool C at the Junior World Championship in the Auckland region with only the winner guaranteed a place in the semi-finals.
VIDEO: Chris Boyd unveils his New Zealand squad and talks about #JWC2014
New Zealand Under 20 squad
Forwards: Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Timothy Cadwallader (Manawatu), Troy Callander (Bay of Plenty), Geoffrey Cridge (Hawke’s Bay), Joshua Dickson (Otago), Epalahame Faiva (Waikato), Kyle Harris (Otago), Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato), Tau Koloamatangi (Waikato), Scott Mellow (Taranaki), Atunaisa Moli (Waikato), James O'Reilly (Wellington), Mathew Peni (Wellington), Tom Sanders (Canterbury), James Tucker (Waikato).
Backs: Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury), Kaveinga Finau (Canterbury), Leon Fukofuka (Auckland), Tinoai (TJ) Faiane (Auckland), Jackson Garden-Bachop (Wellington), Simon Hickey (captain, Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato), Damian McKenzie (Waikato), Richard Mo'unga (Canterbury), Joshua Renton (Otago), Vincent Tavae-Aso (Auckland), Tauasosi Tuimavave (Wellington).