Hawkes Bay name 17 returning players in their Mitre 10 Cup squad

Wednesday, August 8, 2018    

While 17 players have returned from last season, when Hawke's Bay finished second to last in the Championship, only one, utility back Stacey Ili, hasn't played club rugby in the region. Eighteen of the players have yet to play a first-class game for the side.

A feature of the selection is the inclusion of six players from the outstanding Hastings Boys' High School 1st XV which won the Top Four competition last year. That's due to Ozich's connection with the side.

Four of those players, loose forward Devan Flanders, first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie, prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe and outside back Danny Toala, were part of the New Zealand Secondary Schools side last year. The others were halfback Folau Fakatava and hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes.

Continuing the development aspect of the side is the inclusion of 2018 New Zealand Under-20s team member and loose forward Will Tremain, No.8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, prop Pouri Rakete-Stones, wing Mason Emerson and utility Jason Lowe. All are in their early 20s.

Providing the necessary experience in the side will be hooker Ash Dixon, who has been named captain. But backing him will be outstanding Hurricanes loose forward Gareth Evans, Chiefs halfback Brad Weber, Chiefs lock Michael Allardice and Hurricanes prop Ben May.

Looking to build on his exposure with New Zealand Under-20 and also the Chiefs this year in Super Rugby will be first five-eighths Tiaan Falcon. With the side missing 62-game veteran Ihaia West, who has taken up a contract with La Rochelle, Falcon will be seen as a key replacement in generalship and in goal-kicking duties.

Utility back Richard Buckman is also missing after opting for a two-year contract with Kobe Steelers in Japan. Halfback centurion Chris Eaton and flanker Tony Lamborn are not part of the side, Lamborn playing for Southland. The Vaega brothers, Cardiff and To'o, are also missing, Cardiff having returned to Counties Manukau. 

Loose forward Hannon Brighouse is likely to be out of consideration for the first month of the competition and Solomone Funaki has been included as temporary cover while prop Tim Farrell, a member of last year's New Zealand Under-20s side which won the world championship, has been named in the side but is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Hawke's Bay begin their campaign on the road with their first game against Southland in Invercargill on Sunday, August 19 followed by a Friday game against Otago in Dunedin.

The Hawke's Bay squad is:

Michael Allardice (41), Joe Apikotoa (0), Mark Braidwood (16), Hannon Brighouse (0), Michael Buckley (0), Geoff Cridge (18), Jacob Devery (7), Ash Dixon (82), Pasqualle Dunn (6), Mason Emerson (22), Gareth Evans (10), Folau Fakatava (0), Tiaan Falcon (19), Tim Farrell (5), Devan Flanders (0), Solomone Funaki (temporary injury cover - 0), Stacey Ili (0), Josh Kaifa (0), Kianu Kereru-Symes (0), Jason Long (30), Jonah Lowe (24), Ben May (9), Lincoln McClutchie (0), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (11), Tom Parsons (15), Ben Power (0), Pouri Rakete-Stones (10), Brodie Retallick (9), Fa'alemiga Selesele (18), JJ Taulagi (0), Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe (0), Danny Toala (0), Sasa Tofilau (0), Will Tremain (0), Shae Tucker (0), Sam Ulufonua (0), Brad Weber (17).