New Aussie Competitions—Part II: National Under 20 Competition - Green and Gold Rugby
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New Aussie Competitions—Part II: National Under 20 Competition

New Aussie Competitions—Part II: National Under 20 Competition

The National Under 20 Competition is the second new tournament for 2014 and it will be a vital one for the future of Aussie rugby.

The ARU has reacted to its poor results in the IRB Junior World Cup [JWC] in the last two years and will be holding a tournament to be contested by four Under 20 teams: Queensland, NSW, a combined “Southern States” team, and an invited country, Tonga.

The young Aussies were hampered last year by an imperfect selection process which involved a few camps for training and assessment, and one walkover game. This was discussed in a Green and Gold Rugby review of the Australian performance in the 2013 JWC.

Oz U/20 scrum front-row

Aussie Under 20 scrum front-row 2013

This year the selectors will be able to choose players under tough match conditions in the National Under 20 Competition [NUC], to be held in Canberra from March 22 to March 26.

This is a short period for teams to play three games in, but the selectors will be looking at the players’ ability to back up with not much of a rest, because those are the tournament conditions they will get in the JWC in New Zealand in June.

Having this national competition to train players longer and select them better, will not guarantee better results in the Junior World Cup, because you’ve got to have the players to do so, but it will make it more likely.

NSW Colts

I know a bit more about this (boringly named) team because Michael Cheika was kind enough to spend some time with me.

He said that ex-Waratah and Wallaby Tim Kelaher started the squad selection process after he was appointed as Waratahs’ Chief Scout in June 2013. Since it was the first year for a NSW Under 20s team he went through the established channels of NSW Schools rugby and the Australia 20s from last year, and also connected with Club and Colts coaches.

A group of 45 was chosen for the initial NSW Colts’ intake. Then Cheika took the list to all the club coaches and said:

If there’s anyone who you think is worthwhile and is not in this group, send them down to training.

Beale with NSW Colts

Beale with NSW Colts

They got another 15, and with other add-ons they now have 65.

The squad will be reduced in early February and they will finalise the squad about a month before the competition starts (on March 21st).

The NSW Colts are getting some high level coaching. It started around 20th November and was handled initially by the three senior Waratahs’ coaches so they could put names and skills to faces. Experienced Waratah players like Kurtley Beale also help out on a rotating basis. The senior coaches still co-ordinate the three sessions a week but after a month of hands-on mentoring they passed on the work to three reasonable replacements.

Monday: Attack (Darryl Gibson) now coached by John Muggleton.

Wednesday: Defence (Nathan Grey) now coached by Jim Williams.

Friday: Team and invidual skills (Michael Cheika) now coached by Alan Gaffney.

Those three fellows have all coached at test level—that’s a coaching panel !!

Manly has ten young players in the squad and Colts coach Jono Hardy said:

Our boys are absolutely loving it, they are training three times a week in a semi-professional environment.

The official NSW Colts’ coach won’t be appointed until closer to the Championships and will most likely not be any of the above senior coaches. Cheika said that they would look for somebody who could be in that “junior and development niche for a few years so he can be put on the pathway to be a senior coach.”

But he doesn’t want to over-coach the young players:

 I want them to play games, I want them to play five or six games so we can really see these lads and what they’ve got.

They’ll get the games alright: Cheika has planned NSW Colts’ trial games starting in early February.

- Internal trials “mixed and matched with Country Under 20s if it can be arranged”.

- Possible v Probables matches mixed with senior players who are going to be involved in the Pacific Rugby Cup [PRC].

- v. Argentina PRC team, (domestic Argentine players, included in the PRC for the first time).

- v. Fiji PRC team.

- v. “a club team or something like that”.

That’s a good programme for a state Under 20’s squad.

Dempsey training with Tahs

Dempsey training with Waratahs

When asked what NSW players should be looked out for in the National Championship, Cheika who has attended all the practice sessions, nominated flyhalf David Horwitz who is in the Waratahs EPS and was the Randwick starting no.10; Jack Dempsey “obviously has been outstanding” on the NSW Barbarians tour and in Under 20s last year; and scrumhalf Fabian Natoli who has started for Manly in First Grade.

He also had kind words for flyhalf or fullback Jonathan Vaux, winger Henry Clunies-Ross and lock Cameron Skelton, brother of Will,who played Colts I rugby in 2013 for Sydney Uni though still at school.

Those were only some off the top of his head, and he added:

There’s plenty of talent; we want to build a really strong team so it gives the National 20s a good opportunity to be successful at the World Cup.

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  • handyandy

    Fantastic to see that the aru are moving forward with the development of young players with tournament that requires the players to perform consistently within a short recovery period. One player that i was surprised not to hear a mention of in the forward pack who played in the junior irb last year is Micahel Wells. From the games i watched from that disappointing tour, I thought he was a consistent standout in defence and set piece. I don’t know how he performed in his club matches in 2013 but he certainly caught my attention from that tour. i hope G&G continues to cover this upcoming tournament and publishes the results of matches and the players that will become our future super rugby / wallabies.

    • Lee Grant

      Michael Wells turned 20 in 2013 and is no longer eligible.

      We will arrange for some match reporting of the tournament in Canberra.


  • Kiap

    Excellent news. I remember the JWC last year and our blokes seemed underdone. This NUC should see them well prepared AND with a good selection process.

    I like the way Cheika and co. are working too, going on this report,

    • Lee Grant

      Some of the lads might have got a shock in training yesterday and on Monday, which I saw. Its was Muggleton on Monday and Cheika himself on Wednesday.

      Some of them are growing up as the weeks go by and soaking up the stuff. (And one lad from the country hadn’t been in a gym before).

      And no doubt: some of them are learning some new words also.

  • MM

    Great report Lee and many thanks for taking the time to compile it. Looking forward to progress reports.

  • ralph

    Fuck me…finally professional action to go with professionalism.

  • Hawko

    What chance the two Skelton brothers as the Tah lock pairing in 2017?

    • Joe Mac

      It could be a reality as early as 2016 once we see the post- 2015 world cup exodus of players to Europe.

      • Lee Grant

        It’s fair to say that Cameron has a long way to go. When I saw him playing for CHS in 2013 I remarked to a mate of mine that it looked like he was walking around the park—and he agreed.

        Then I said to this guy something like—”but didn’t we say the same thing about Willie in 2010? ” He agreed about that too.

        Cam must have come up better later in 2013 because he had moved from Colts II to Colts I for Sydney Uni—and that is a serious team for an Under 18 player.

        Here are some photos of Cameron doing boxing training yesterday.

        Super heavyweight division ???

        • Lee Grant

          Oops stuffed up. One photo was uploaded twice

          On the matter of the two heavyweight brothers playing together. I don’t think it’s a great idea to have two of those types of players on the park at the same time. It would be like having two Sitaleki Timanis.

          You need a balance in the second row—or the backrow for that matter:

          One bruiser lock and one big-engine athletic guy—like Bakkies and Matfield—is ideal..

        • Bairdy

          God-damn, the grocery bill for Mrs. Skelton must be through the roof!

        • MM

          Holy shit! So one guys down on the deck and there’s another one lining up for a pasting. I hope the ARU and waratahs subsidise their mum’s grocery bill

        • Lee Grant

          That’s funny MM.

          I think the guys on the deck were just doing stretches after doing weights.on the side of the field. (players sometimes do some boxing or weight training if they have an injury problem that doesn’t let them run around the park of take contact, but can do the other stuff).

          Siotame Kavapalu was one of the guys.

  • Bairdy

    A fantastic article and great also to read of this new competition. Seems Pulver and the rest of the ARU are working overtime to increase the rugby pathways and strengthen Australian rugby.

    Also, will the NUC be televised, say on Fox? Wouldn’t mind watching some of the games

    Once again, thank you Lee for the service you provide on all things Sydney, and Australian rugby.

    • Lee Grant

      I doubt it Bairdy since they’re going to show only one game of the NRC third tier every week later in the year—and the Under 20 games are really selection matches for the national team..

      You never know though.

      • Jets

        It would be a great opportunity for the ARU to stream it though. They could then gather data on how many viewers they get to see if it is a viable option to sell in the future.

        If only we knew of an internet site where rugby fans regularly visit and contribute. If such a place existed that would be a great site to host such a service.

        • Lee Grant

          You mean Green and Gold Rugby?

          I have passed on your idea to the ARU.

        • Jets

          Yes Lee that was what I was getting at. If they put it up here it and gave GAGR a chance to promote it then we could be onto a winner.
          I watched the Aust BarBars v Canada via the stream in 2011. And when I lived in North America I watched quite a few games that way, only way I could.

        • Lee Grant


          “in the process of negotiating a live streaming platform with
          YouTube. This should be in operation shortly for matches and events throughout the ARU departments.”

          Sounds like there is a chance that some NUC games will be available on YouTube, and the same goes for the NRC, I expect..

          Well done ARU, if so.

          PS – I edited the blog to put this in

        • Jets

          That’s great news Lee.

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