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TITO COMPLETES BLUES COACHING PICTURE

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New Zealand rugby icon, Paul Tito, completes the Blues coaching staff picture today, signing on as Assistant Coach for the 2023 season.

Tito comes to the Blues off the back of successful coaching stints with Georgia, who claimed victory over Wales in the recent autumn international window and for the past two seasons has been Forwards Coach at the Wellington Lions who are the current NPC title and Ranfurly Shield holders.

He takes over from Ben Afeaki who has taken an exciting opportunity with Rugby New York in Major League Rugby in the United States.

“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with the boys this season,” said Tito.

“It’s an exciting squad Leon and his fellow coaches have put together. There’s a lot of consistency in personnel which I think is a really good thing – I’m sure they’ll be hungry after last season and want to go one better.”

Tito brings 12 years of professional playing experience to the role while in recent years has filled coaching roles with Taranaki, Western Force, Wellington Lions and internationally with Georgia.

After seven years playing for the Hurricanes, he went overseas and linked up with the Cardiff Blues from 2007 to 2012, making 124 appearances and captaining the side to European Challenge Cup and EDF Energy Cup wins.

He said both his playing and coaching experiences will help bring something new to the role at the Blues.

“I’ve been around rugby for a while now so I’m looking forward to imparting what I have learnt over the years to this vibrant and exciting group of Blues forwards. As a former lock, I’ll have a focus on the lineout, from what I’ve seen there’s a good foundation to build from and I’ll also add my little bit of spice to the equation,” he said.

Blues Head Coach, Leon MacDonald, is looking forward to linking up with the man known as ‘Fish’. “I played against Paul a lot back in the day – he was always a dogged and hard working opponent,” MacDonald said.

“I’ve been impressed with what he’s done from a coaching standpoint in recent years, you only have to look at Georgia’s recent win over Wales and Wellington’s success to see the impact someone like Paul can have on a group.”

Content & Images from – Blues Rugby


Super Rugby

Aaron Smith Confirms Highlanders exit

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All Blacks Test and Highlander’s centurion Aaron Smith has announced he will spend time playing overseas at the end of 2023. 

Smith and Beauden Barrett have signed with the Toyota club in Japan and while Smith has committed to a long-term contract, New Zealand Rugby is working with Barrett on a return to playing on home soil.

Both players have cemented their place in the top echelon of world rugby. The two most-capped backs in All Blacks history, Smith (114) and Barrett (112 – second equal with Dan Carter) are part of an exclusive group to have won Rugby World Cup and Super Rugby titles.

“From the time I signed my first contract in 2008 until now, I have been living my dream,” said Smith. I have been blessed to represent my home with the Manawatū Turbos, who helped me chase my dream of being a Super Rugby player.

“I have to say a big thanks to the Highlanders for believing in me. I have done it all with that team and they have always been there for me. Thank you to every Highlanders player, staff member and fan. You have given me everything and more in the 13 years we have had together.”

Smith was an integral part of the Highlanders’ maiden Super Rugby title in 2015 and is the team’s most-capped player (176).

Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said: “You look at Aaron and you think, this guy could go on forever. I know we and every Highlanders fan would want him to.

“Unfortunately, that is not a reality in professional rugby and the time has come to say thank you, good luck, and goodbye. That will not be easy for us, our fans or Aaron. He is such a massive part of the Highlanders story, our most-capped player and surely one of our best ever.

“We wish him, Teagan, Luka and Leo all the very best in Japan, and I would encourage everyone to come out this season and watch the master at work one last time.”

Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody was equally lavish with his praise for the All Black: “Aaron has defined halfback play and the way we like to play the game, fast, skilled, and determined for so long it’s hard to imagine a team sheet without his name on it.

“As a team, we can only thank him for all that he has done for us and wish him, Teagan and his family all the best for the future.”

The former Fielding High School student debuted for Manawatū in 2008 and has amassed 47 appearances for the province, becoming their most-capped international. 

“Aaron’s commitment and dedication to Manawatū has been unquestionable,” said Manawatū Rugby CEO Andrea Jackson said. “That has been made even more clear in recent seasons when he has donned the famous green and white jersey in between his All Blacks duties, in 2020 and 2021.

“We wish Aaron and his whanau all the best for their next adventure, and we hope to see him back one day to bring up his 50th match for Manawatū.”

ENDS

Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby


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Super Rugby

Oli Jager: Injury Update

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Following an injury sustained towards the end of NPC 2022, Oli Jager has undergone surgery on his neck. 

 

The surgery was a success and he’s progressing well with rehab, having recently returned to some gym-based training and conditioning. He will progress to contact and scrummaging once cleared by the specialist.

 

His return to play date is uncertain at this stage and will depend on his progress over the next weeks and months. Oli and the wider team are committed to him playing an active role in the team environment throughout the 2023 season

Content & Images from – Crusaders Rugby


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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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