Craig Philpott has picked the heartbeat of Waikato’s champion juniors in his first New Zealand under-20s squad named on Tuesday.
The Hawke’s Bay head coach has been promoted from his assistant role to replace Scott Robertson at the helm, with the latter taking charge of the Crusaders.
Eight of Waikato’s successful under-19s squad, who won the Jock Hobbs Memorial tournament in Taupo in September, have been included among the 49 players selected for a development camp in Palmerston North that takes place from December 1-7.
Hautapu’s Luke Jacobson and Sam Caird are recalled, after playing for the Baby Blacks this year, with Sheldon Tovio the club’s third member of the squad, which is building towards next year’s world rugby championship in Georgia.
Chiefs and Waikato prop Atu Moli captained the team to victory in the tournament in 2015, but they failed to make the semi-finals this year and finished fifth.
Jacobson, a back-rower, played in the tournament in England alongside his brother and Waikato flanker, Mitch, as well as Hautapu prop Ayden Johnstone, with Caird, a lock, missing the final cut for the squad after all four played in two matches against Australia in April, with the Baby Blacks recording a win (30-10) and a loss (24-25) against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
University fullback Tyler Campbell gets a call-up after rapidly progressing through Waikato’s ranks in 2016, which saw him play in two Mitre 10 Cup matches.
Campbell was named in the Mooloos' juniors squad in August, but was soon elevated to development level, before he made the bench for Waikato’s national provincial championship match against Auckland at Eden Park, which they won 35-32.
An ankle injury to Jordan Trainor meant Campbell was suddenly making his NPC debut the following week at fullback for Waikato in their Ranfurly Shield game with Taranaki, which finished 20-all.
Campbell then started in Waikato’s 35-26 loss to Counties Manukau in Pukekohe, which was his NPC last outing.
Fraser Tech will boast two players in the squad, with Matty Lansdown and Du'Plessis Kirifi called up for the first time.
First five-eighth Lansdown came off the bench in Waikato’s first two Shield defences of 2016 – (83-13 v Thames Valley and 55-0 v King Country) – and starred in the juniors squad that won the Jock Hobbs tournament, finishing as the competition’s leading scorer with 51 points.
Lansdown and Jacobson, who also captained the juniors and claimed the DJ Graham Award for player of the tournament, were called to report for training with Waikato’s NPC squad the day after they beat Auckland A 25-22 in the final.
Halfback Caleb Korteweg of Hamilton Old Boys and lock Shneil Singh of Morrinsville Sports have also made the squad for the first time, with just 10 players retained from the last squad.
Three other players who were contracted to Waikato Rugby this year made the world rugby championship squad, as well as Mitch and Luke Jacobson and Johnstone from the Hautapu club.
Blues and Auckland-bound fullback Trainor, versatile Chiefs and North Harbour-bound back Shaun Stevenson and prop Sefo Kautai, who signed with the Chiefs' Super Rugby squad for next season, were part of the 2016 Baby Blacks that lost their world title to England.