U20 lines up matches

Action from the Warriors and Fiji under-20 rugby clash in 2021. Picture: PAULINI CURUQARA

The head coach of the national U20 rugby team preparing for the coming Oceania Rugby U20 Championship in Australia from July 1-10, is excited at the prospects of unearthing future Flying Fijians including the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua.

Ifereimi Rawaqa said it was an important part of Fiji Rugby Union’s high-performance system because the competition would showcase the next generation of future stars for the country.

“It’s an invaluable pathway program,” he said.

“We’ve been hard at work to assemble a strong squad to the tourney. The preparatory work had commenced in February with close to 800 players. “We’ve assembled a 35-member team that includes five overseas-based players. The final 28 players will be named in early June.

“We will be using the event as a buildup to next year’s U20 World Rugby Championships.”

Meanwhile, Sunshine Coast in Australia would host the championship at the Sunshine Coast Stadium.

The 2022 event would bring international age grade rugby to fans in southeast Queensland with reigning champions and host Australia to welcome Fiji, New Zealand and first timers Argentina to the iconic Sunshine Coast.

Some graduates from respective participating teams in recent years have gone on to represent the Flying Fijians, All Blacks and the Wallabies including Frank Lomani (Fijian Drua/Flying Fijians), Meli Derenalagi (Fijian Drua/Fiji 7s), Tevita Ikanivere (Fijian Drua/Flying Fijians) and Vilimoni Botitu (Fiji 7s) apart from Will Jordan, Jordie Barrett, Tupou Vai’i and Anton Leinert-Brown for the All Blacks and Tate McDermott for the Wallabies.

Oceania Rugby had partnered with the Sunshine Coast Council to host the tourney in Queensland for the next three years.

The Baby Flying Fijians battle arch nemesis New Zealand on Friday, July 1 in Round 1, clash with the hosts on Tuesday, July 5 in Round 2 and play newbies Argentina on Sunday, July 10 in their final match.

The Junior Wallabies are the defending champions after their heroics in 2019 saw them beat favourites New Zealand 24-0 to claim the title.

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