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A handful of talented youngsters from the South have earned selection in national squads.
New Zealand Rugby yesterday announced its New Zealand Schools, New Zealand Barbarians Under-18 and New Zealand Maori Under-18 Nga Whatukura teams.
They include 75 players from 30 schools, nine clubs and 15 provincial unions.
The lone Otago player — one of just three from the South Island — in the New Zealand Schools squad is Finn Hurley.
The talented first five is fresh from kicking Otago Boys’ High School to a dramatic win over Southland Boys’ High School in the Otago premier final.
Hurley follows in the footsteps of recent Otago Boys’ selections Michael Manson (2019), Abraham Pole (2017), Sam Dickson and Tim Hogan (both 2016).
Two King’s High School players have been named in the Barbarians Under-18 squad.
Burly props Mahonri Auva’a and Steve Salelea are joined by Otago Boys’ midfield back Filipo Whitehouse-Opetaia Tovio.
All four of the Otago schoolboys have been offered places in the Otago academy programme for next year.
Another to make the Barbarians squad is utility back Ajay Faleafaga, who is at St Peter’s College but is heading to Otago next year.
Southland Boys’ has two players selected — hooker Jack Taylor is in the Barbarians, and first five Kaea Nikora-Balloch is in the Maori squad.
Former King’s High School First XV coach Ryan Bambry is assistant coach of the Barbarians, helping Allan Bunting, who recently guided the Black Ferns Sevens to Olympic gold in Tokyo.
Travel restrictions have put the kibosh on an international schedule, so the three squads will assemble for a development week and play a game of three halves.
The New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Barbarian Under-18s will play the curtain-raiser to an NPC game in Wellington on October 8.