08.05.2008 – Graham Croker

Sydney University Football Club will provide four of the 26-man Australian team to contest the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales in June.

Hooker Nathan Charles, utility back Alfi Mafi, flanker Ben McCalman and fullback Peter Betham have been included in the squad for the Under-20 tournament, which follows the IRB’s merger of the Under-19 and Under-21 tournaments.

The squad includes Super 14 regulars in NSW Waratahs Kurtley Beale and Rob Horne, Queensland’s Quade Cooper and Will Genia and the Western Force’s Sam Wykes and David Pocock.

Coach, Brian Melrose, says the squad comprises the best young talent in the country. “It’s a highly competitive squad to get into and now we’re looking forward to our final preparations for the tournament,” Melrose says. “Of course future selection of the Wallabies and Australia A may have a bearing on the final squad, but we’ve picked the best team available and we intend to be very competitive in Wales.”

“Many of the teams at the world championships will be full of players with provincial experience and playing in these tournaments presents our young players with a great stepping stone on the way to the Wallabies.”

Mafi has represented Australia at schoolboy, Under-19 and Sevens levels since the end of the 2006 season and was elevated to the Waratahs Super 14 squad in early 2007, his first year out of school.

McCalman, a product of Kinross Wolaroi School at Orange, has also represented – as a flanker – at Schoolboy and Under 19 levels. A tough as teak competitor, he has been playing second-row in the University’s undefeated Shute Shield team this season.

Charles, a Knox Grammar School product, has three Australian Schoolboy caps. The Wesley College resident is also a member of the imposing Shute Shield pack.

Betham represented the Australian Schoolboys in 2005 and 2006 from St. Joseph’s College Hunters Hill. In 2007 he represented the Australian U19s and he is currently on contract with the ACT Brumbies.

Depending on injury and unavailability, Sydney University utility back Mitch Inman, could also find himself on the plane for Wales. He must have come close to selection in the squad named today.

Australian under-20 squad: Albert Anae (Qld), Kurtley Beale (NSW), Peter Betham (NSW), Nathan Charles (NSW), Blair Connor (Qld), Quade Cooper (Qld), Ben Coridas (NSW), Ben Daley (Qld), Tetera Faulkner (ACT), Will Genia (Qld), James Hanson (Qld), Dane Haylett-Petty (WA), Robert Horne (NSW), Seilala Lam (ACT), Richard Kingi (Qld), Alfi Mafi (NSW), Ben McCalman (NSW), Tom Murday (WA), Ratu Nasiganiyavi (NSW), Daniel Palmer (NSW), David Pocock (WA), Andrew Rossiter (Qld), Robert Simmons (Qld), Jeremy Sua (NSW), Ben Tapuai (Qld) and Sam Wykes (NSW).