THEY have only just assembled as a squad but new Australia under-20s coach Simon Cron says his side still expect to win the Oceania Championship which kicks off on the Gold Coast on Friday.
The team got together on Tuesday afternoon ahead of their opening match against Samoa on Friday night (7pm AEST).
Matches against Fiji on Tuesday (5pm AEST) and New Zealand on May 6 (7pm AEST), will follow in the tournament which serves as preparation for the world champs in Georgia.
It is just the second time this year that Cron — who led Northern Suburbs to their first Shute Shield win in 41 years last season — has got his hands on the under-20s squad, following a two and a half day camp earlier this month.
The scenario is hardly ideal for a top-tier rugby nation, as Australia tries to improve on last year’s sixth placing at the May-June world championship.
Australia’s best finish in nine world championships was runner-up in 2010.
“She’s a bit light on, to be honest,” a frustrated Cron told foxsports.com.au about the limited preparation time.
In contrast New Zealand, who along with England have won eight of the nine under-20 world champs, have had the luxury of four camps together.
But while displeased about the ARU’s scheduling — which saw the Australian Super Rugby under-20s final played on the same weekend he hoped to have access to his players — Cron, a Kiwi, isn’t accepting anything but first onn the Gold Coast.
“I’m a little bit frustrated in the scheduling — in regards to the lack of time I’ve had to coach them — but, look, my expectations are to win every single game,” Cron said.
“That doesn’t change for me.
“And if we don’t, I’ll be pissed.”
It’s been 10 months since Australia’s under-20s hit the field — when thrashed 55-24 by New Zealand in the fifth place playoff at the world champs in England.
Australia has been drawn in pool A for the 2017 tournament along with England, Wales and Samoa.
Players unavailable for selection in the Oceania tournament due to Super Rugby or Australian sevens commitments include Sham Vui (Force), Izaia Perese (Reds), Jordan Uelese, Esei Haangana, Sione Tuipulotu (all Rebels) and Liam McNamara, Henry Hutchison, Simon Kennewell and Lachie Anderson (all sevens).
“This whole Oceania tournament has to be a trial,” Cron said.
“We have to trial these kids and see how they go.”
Leading the charge for the Australians will be their back-row contingent of Reece Hewat, Angus Scott-Young and Liam Wright who led Queensland to back-to-back Super Rugby under-20s national championship titles.
Brumbies playmaker Nick Jooste will lead the team around…