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Blues tie down 7 players.

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Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Seven Blues players, with 218 Super caps between them, will extend their stay at the Auckland Blues.

The ‘Super Seven’ comprise James Parsons, TJ Faiane, Sione Mafileo, Otere Black, Tom Robinson and Stephen Perofeta, who will continue at the Blues until 2021, while young star Caleb Clarke has signed until 2022.

“This is a core group of key players who are an important cog to the Blues wheel both on and off the field,” said Tony Hanks, Blues General Manager High Performance.

“Five of them are players that are born and bred in our region and have come through our system at the Blues. They have been committed to our Blues family since they were age group players and aspired to be part of a successful Blues club. “

“With the retention of top players always challenging in New Zealand, the commitment of this core group, along with the recent extensions of Patrick Tuipulotu and Dalton Papalii, is a significant statement to the commitment, motivation and ambition of our current group, both this year and in the seasons to come,” said Hanks.

Parsons, who has played 98 games for the Blues, was keen to continue his long and storied career with the club.

“He is getter better with experience and his form and leadership make him an important player to re-sign when players of his age are departing New Zealand. Retaining experience is critical to our development and James is a thorough professional who is a real role model for our game,” said forwards coach Tom Coventry.

His fellow Harbour front rower, Mafileo has played 40 times for the Blues and started five times this year.

“After a strong apprenticeship, Sione is now delivering at a high standard game-in game-out and has become a regular starter amongst an excellent group of props. The best is still ahead of him,” said Coventry.

Faiane, who was sidelined for the first two years of his professional carer with injury, captained Auckland to its Mitre-10 Cup success and has carried on that outstanding form to date this season.

“TJ has taken his game to a new level in Investec Super Rugby, and is working well alongside Ma’a and Sonny in the midfield. His work ethic in training is excellent and he is a key leader in our club,” said coach Leon MacDonald.

Robinson has been one of the new starts this season, who like Faiane has had two seasons thwarted by injury before producing standout form for Northland to earn his Super opportunity.

“Tom has been part of the Blues development and has taken his chances a non-stop aggressive approach whether it be at training or in games. His attitude is outstanding and we are thrilled he will be staying with us,” said Coventry.

Black and Perofeta, talented young first-fives, have both signed to stay at the club and both have had to overcome long term injuries. Black, who missed last Super season, has been an influential guiding light in the team this year, while Perofeta, who impressed last year, will miss much of this season with a pec muscle injury.

“Otere is a calm and decisive head on young shoulders who is steering us around the park with maturity beyond his years while Stephen remains an important part of our squad and we look forward to having him back on the playing roster. It is really encouraging with two players of real talent who play in the same position deciding to continue on with our club,” said MacDonald.

Clarke, who has just turned 20, has already shown he has a massive future in Super Rugby. After a transition year with the All Black Sevens, New Zealand U20s and Mitre-10 Cup, Clarke starred in pre-season before a serious knee injury. He returned with an impressive performance and try against the Waratahs.

“Caleb is a product of our development pathway and while he is still just 20, he has immense talent and is a tremendous and humble young man who is a real contributor to our club,” said MacDonald.

“Overall while our focus is firmly fixed on the second half of the season, it is great to know we have a significant core group of players staying with us for the next two years at least.”

Press Release from Auckland Blues


Super Rugby

All Blacks halfback Folau Fakatava taking no chances in race to be fit for 2023 World Cup

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“In rugby you can’t control when you get injured,” Fakatava told Newshub. “All you can do is come back stronger.”

And with the World Cup kicking off in September, that’s exactly what the two test All Black plans to do.

Fakatava got a taste of international rugby in 2022 – he was part of the All Blacks squad all year but was limited to just two appearances off the bench before his season ended.

“I was really hurt when I heard I’d torn my ACL,” he continued. “But at the same time, you really can’t do anything about it.”

But as Fakatava chases one of three halfback spots in Ian Foster’s World Cup squad, he’s taken matters into his own hands.

“I’ve decided not to do the surgery,” he revealed. “My goal this year is to be back out there for the World Cup.”

A third ACL surgery would’ve ruled him out of contention for France, as a conversation with the All Blacks doctor James McGarvey reassured Fakatava avoiding surgery could work.

“He had a look at my other knee, and found out there’s no ACL in that. 

“That gave me confidence to hopefully do that with my other one.”

There are protections in place to ensure Fakatava is back on the field as close to the start of Super Rugby as possible.

Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby


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Reds, Wild Knights partnership continues to provide opportunities for Queensland Rugby

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The Queensland’s Reds’ partnership with the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights continues to reap benefits, with Buildcorp Reds Academy Ryan Schultz travelling to Japan to undertake professional development under Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans.

Schultz, who coaches Queensland’s U18 side and the Anglican Church Grammar School First XV outfit, spent 11-days immersed in the League One program, learning directly from Deans and his coaching group in Saitama.

Schultz was a part of two game days and a full training week, a unique and exclusive opportunity made possible by Queensland’s relationship with their sister-state club.

“I was fully immersed in their training week,” Schultz said. 

“I was involved in coaching meetings, player meetings, leadership meetings and their training sessions.

“Luckily enough they had a B’s game on the Saturday, followed by Sunday where they played Toyota Verblitz so I got that full week experience of game to game.”

Schultz relished the opportunity to learn from Deans, who has delivered the Wild Knights five premierships in his eight-year tenure.

“It was awesome to be able to see Robbie Deans as a head coach and leader,” Schultz said.

“Seeing him operate behind the scenes, in the meeting rooms with coaches and players, and then on the training paddock was awesome.

“He’s been there for eight seasons so it’s a really well-established program and a real player-led environment.

“The field belongs to the players, so it was really good to see that in real-time and then how that’s developed away from the training paddock.”

Now back in Australia, Schultz will bring his learnings to Queensland’s next generation of Reds with his role as head coach of the Reds U18s and Tier 2 Academy squad.

From the attacking focus of the Japanese game, to Deans’ emphasis on core skills, Schultz has returned from his trip as a better coach.

“Robbie has a big philosophy around accuracy coming first – that technical skill development,” Schultz said.

“Being able to execute skills under pressure is a big thing, so I think how we develop that in our training programs at the Reds will be really important.

“At the moment we’re focusing a lot on technical skill development, so it really reinforced what we’ve been planning and implementing here.

“Japan play exciting, attacking footy over there, there’s a lot less focus on kicking and more around attack.

“I was able to pick up a lot of detail around the attacking part of the game and the skillset.

Following Queensland’s inaugural tour to Japan last October, Schultz’s visit is another example of the partnership paying dividends for Queensland Rugby.

“It’s an awesome partnership,” Schultz said.

“I know the Reds squad really enjoyed their tour on November and being there and talking to the Panasonic staff about it, it was really beneficial to them.

“To be able to over and learn and grow, and then bring that back to our Academy is really exciting.”

Content & Images from – Queensland Reds Rugby


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Super Rugby

Former English International to join the Highlanders

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English first-five Freddie Burns will join the Highlanders for the 2023 edition of DHL Super Rugby Pacific. Burns, currently playing for Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership has agreed terms with the Highlanders, and with the support of Leicester, will land in New Zealand prior to the first round.

The 32-year-old Burns will bring with him a wealth of experience having started his first-class career with Gloucester back in 2010. His first turn at Leicester was between 2014-2017 before three seasons with Bath and Burns has over 200 appearances in the Premiership to his name. In 2021 he had a short sojourn in Japan before returning to Leicester for the 2022 season.

A former England U20 representative he represented the senior side five times most notably debuting against the All Blacks in 2012, replacing Owen Farrell, in their 38-21 victory.

A prolific goal kicker and tactically sound first-five, who can also play fullback, he was the toast of Leicester when he dropkicked the winning goal for the Tigers against Saracens in the 2022 Gallagher Premiership final.

Burns is looking forward to the experience.

“As a young lad I grew up watching Super rugby in the early hours of morning. To have the opportunity to represent such a prestigious club as the Highlanders in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season is a huge honour. I look forward to getting started and adding to the group both on and off the field”

Highlanders Head Coach Clarke Dermody has welcomed the arrival of the experienced playmaker.

“Having a player of Freddie’s calibre available to us in such a crucial position is a real boost for the squad. Last year we were exposed at 10 due to a run of injuries and while we covered the situation, we were asking a lot of Sam Gilbert and Vili Koroi who are not regular starting first-fives. Freddie’s arrival will provide us with that extra insurance against that scenario playing out again in 2023”.

Burns will be the second international back to be added to Dermody’s 2023 squad with Argentinian outside back Martin Bogado also set to play in Highlanders colours.

 

ENDS

Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby


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