Four Melbourne Rebels have been named in Rugby Australia’s 31-man Junior Wallabies squad for two games against the New Zealand Under-20s in Wellington.
Victorians Leafi Talataina (Endeavour Hills) and Daniel Maiava (Wyndham Rhinos) have been named alongside Mason Gordon (Wests Bulldogs), and David Vaihu (Wests Bulldogs) in the squad ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023 in South Africa.
For Talataina, the selection caps off a slew of recent performances at the national level, including a standout campaign for the Australian Schools and U18 Squad in 2022. The Shaw and Partners Rebels Academy graduate recently returned to the field in the Dewar Shield, playing for his club side Endeavour Hills.
Explosive back rower Maiava’s selection comes off the back three appearances in the Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific competition this year. A product of The Grange P-12 College and Wyndham City, he is also a graduate of the Show and Partners Rebels Academy, which continues to deliver a pipeline of homegrown Victorian talent for the Club.
Backs Gordon and Vaihu round out the Rebels’ squad members, with the exciting duo both having outstanding seasons for Wests in Queensland’s Hospital Cup.
The Junior Wallabies will face the Kiwis at NZCIS in Wellington at 12pm AEST Monday 29 May, before meeting again at Sky Stadium at 2.30pm AEST Saturday 3 June. The second fixture will serve as a curtain-raiser to the Hurricanes vs. Crusaders Super Rugby Pacific fixture and be broadcast live on Stan Sport.
The selected players will go into camp on the Gold Coast from Sunday 21 May.
"We're very excited about getting the squad together and testing ourselves against New Zealand, who always present a great challenge," head coach Nathan Grey said. "In particular the scheduling of the second game as a curtain-raiser to the Super Rugby Pacific fixture presents a valuable opportunity for the players to experience a big stadium and a big stage to perform on.
"Many of the players in this squad essentially picked themselves through the quality and consistency of their performances playing for their clubs over the last month.
"Super Rugby Pacific commitments have forced some changes but we have the benefit of being able to draw from an extended shadow squad of players who have been involved in the program to date. "From all corners of Australia, they come together under the Junior Wallabies banner, to represent their country with pride and take a huge step in their development as Rugby players."
The Junior Wallabies are drawn to face Fiji, Ireland and England in the pool stage of the World Rugby U20 Championship, which kicks off on 24 June.
Junior Wallabies Squad
Massimo De Lutiis
*Tom Lynagh, Max Jorgensen and Marley Pearce were initially selected but unavailable for the NZ series due to Super Rugby Pacific commitments