Baby Blacks head coach Scott Robertson has backed Jordie Barrett to light up the World Rugby Under-20s Championship in Manchester as they prepare to defend their title.
Robertson won 23 All Blacks caps as a back-row and guided New Zealand Under-20s to a first junior World Championship since 2011 last year and is backing Barrett – younger brother of All Black World Cup winner Beauden – to dazzle.
Barrett, 19, notched 24 points across a drawn two-Test Oceania Championship series with Australia in May and is capable of playing fly-half, centre and full-back.
And Robertson wants the youngster to follow in the footsteps of those who announced themselves to the global game at the World Rugby Under-20s Championship.
“Jordie is a bit of a freak, the whole family is. He is big, tall six foot five centre, second five-eighth, very skilful, really good level head,” Robertson said.
“Every team that wins the championship needs someone to perform and whether it’s a Tevita Lee last year scoring all those tries or an Akira Ioane, or a Handre Pollard for South Africa, or a George Ford for England.
“There are lots of players who have come through and made that difference and Jordie has potential, he is a young man with capabilities, but it is a team thing and hopefully we can play some good footie, get some good ball for all of our backs to play.
“Jordie is one of eight, he is from a big family, he is a quality kid, really level-headed and he is a year young, we will see him again next year.”
Robertson’s side kick off on Tuesday against newcomers Georgia Under-20s – who won the second-tier World Rugby Under-20s Trophy for the first time last year – at Sale Sharks’ AJ Bell Stadium before clashes with their Irish and Welsh counterparts on June 11 and June 15.
Jason Strange’s Wales side clinched a first Under-20s Six Nations this year and Canterbury National Provincial Championship coach Robertson knows his men have drawn an exceptionally tough group, but backs his charges to clinch an unprecedented sixth crown.
“With Wales and Ireland being really strong and with Georgia being big, strong, robust men it is a real challenge,” Robertson explained.
“Wales are a great team, they won the Six Nations off the back of a great set-piece, really good defence, they suffocate you as a team and they have got some really good finishers as well.
“They are really complete, probably the best they have been for years.
“Ireland is a traditional Irish side, from what I have seen they play a lot like the senior side, they have some really good strike runners as well.
“We are aware that you have to beat all styles and that is a really great challenge for us.”
See the Future Stars of Rugby at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester this June. For more information, including how to buy tickets, visit http://www.englandrugby.com/u20championships/ #WorldRugbyU20s