Wellington trio included in NZ U20 squad

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GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MAY 01: New Zealand sing the National anthem during the 2018 Oceania Rugby U20 Championship match between New Zealand and Fiji at Bond University on May 1, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Three Wellington players have been named in the New Zealand Under-20 rugby squad to defend their world championship title in France.

Props Xavier Numia (Oriental-Rongotai) and Kaliopasi Uluilakepa (Petone), along with centre Billy Proctor (Marist St Pats), were named in coach Craig Philpott's squad after the trio were part of the side who won the Oceania Championship in Australia.

Philpott said he and his assistant coaches were presented with a tough job in selecting the squad of 28.

"We have been impressed with the quality of players that have been with us throughout our camps and at the Oceania Championships which meant it wasn't easy to narrow this group down."

Captain Tom Christie and Blues winger Caleb Clarke return from the champion 2017 team, while at the other end of the scale there are eight players who will be eligible for selection again next year.

Experience also comes in the form of 12 players who have played at Mitre 10 Cup level and 27 of the 28 players having been involved in an Oceania Championship campaign.

"We found that a key factor to our success in 2017 was continuity so it was important to see the bulk of this squad be involved in the Oceania campaign."

Philpott said there are strengths right across the squad.

"Laghlan McWhannell was the standout lock at Oceania and he is complemented by the two-metre duo of Will Tucker and John Akau'ola Laula. Our captain, Tom Christie, leads an exciting loose forward trio that have been absolutely tireless in their efforts on the field.

"Vilimoni Koroi adds a point of difference in the back three alongside the genuine size and speed in the likes of Caleb Clarke and Leicester Faingaanuku, we are looking forward to seeing what they can create on the field."

New Zealand is set to face Japan, Wales and Australia in a tough pool play assignment.

"Our focus will be very much on nailing our processes game by game and expecting the unexpected.

"Against Fiji at Oceania, we had to play 60 minutes with 14 men and that was a good test of our systems and mindset."