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John Ackland will coach the Junior Kiwis in their match against the Junior Kangaroos in Townsville on October 13.

David Kidwell, who was to guide the side, has had to stand down for personal reasons. “I’ve enjoyed my time and seeing the talent coming through,” said Kidwell, “and I wish John good luck.”

While it’s not ideal to have a coach withdraw at such a stage of preparation, the NZRL’s CEO Jim Doyle is confident in the replacement.

“John has been involved in our system, he has great knowledge of the game and under 20 players especially, and he has coached the best Toyota Cup team in two of the last three years. We’re very pleased to have someone of his caliber step into the position.”

Ackland has been involved with the Junior Kiwis for the last two seasons as a selector and has worked in that role this year alongside Kidwell, Mark Horo and David Lomax. His coaching history is extensive with time at Mt Albert, with Western Samoa, and as the Assistant Coach at the Vodafone Warriors. For the last three years he has coached the Junior Warriors, who won the Toyota Cup title in both 2010 and 2011. This is his first time taking the Junior Kiwis though.

“It’s a real privilege to coach the national side,” says Ackland, “It’ll be a strong team.”

From Auckland’s Mt Albert club, Ackland played rugby league for Auckland and also had a Test for the Kiwis in 1983. His uncle Ron is one of the all-time great Kiwis.

With an eye for scouting talent – that has seen him connected with Kiwis including Sonny Bill Williams, Roy Asotasi and Issac Luke – Ackland is a former school teacher whose left arm bowling was good enough to see him play cricket for Auckland.

The Junior Kiwis extended squad will be announced next week with the final squad, including players from the Toyota Cup Grand Final, announced on Tuesday October 2.

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