Everything you need to know about New Zealand’s five Super Rugby squads for the 2019 season.
Veteran All Black Ma’a Nonu will return to a Blues team he has played for on two occasions and joins two new signings from Tasman in fellow midfield back Levi Aumua and loose forward Jed Brown.
There are 27 players returning from the 2018 Blues squad. Among the newcomers are prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth, lock Jacob Pierce, loosie Hoskins Sotutu and backs Harry Plummer and Tanielu Tele’a, who have all come through the New Zealand U20s and Blues Development.
Auckland prop Marcel Renata gains selection after two years as a Super Rugby replacement and with the Blues A side, while Tom Robinson has been part of the Blues Development and 10s campaigns.
The Blues also welcomes back Otere Black, Blake Gibson, Scott Scrafton and Jimmy Tupou after long-term injury layoffs.
2019 Blues squad:
Front row: Leni Apisai, Alex Hodgman, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Sione Mafileo, Matt Moulds, James Parsons, Marcel Renata, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Locks: Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Jacob Pierce, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu.
Loose forwards: Jed Brown, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Tom Robinson, Hoskins Sotutu, Jimmy Tupou.
Scrumhalves: Sam Nock, Augustine Pulu, Jonathan Ruru.
Flyhalves: Otere Black, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer.
Centres: Levi Aumua, TJ Faiane, Ma’a Nonu, Tanielu Tele’a, Sonny Bill Williams.
Outside Backs: Caleb Clarke, Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, Melani Nanai, Jordan Trainor.
Star prop Angus Ta’avao is one of eight All Blacks in the Chiefs squad, joining fellow one-cap All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, and the experienced Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Nathan Harris and Nepo Laulala.
New Chiefs signing, Taranaki prop Reuben O’Neill, who has been named in the All Blacks’ wider squad for the Japanese leg of the end-of-year tour, will also bring international experience, as will Maori All Blacks Shaun Stevenson, Mitchell Karpik and Brad Weber.
O’Neill is one of four players who will hope to make their Super Rugby debuts in 2019, joining All Blacks Sevens speedster Etene Nanai-Seturo, New Zealand U20s lock Laghlan McWhannell and Tongan-born Japan wing Ataata Moeakiola in the Chiefs squad.
Another two players who already have Super Rugby experience are new to the squad – former Rebels utility back Jack Debreczeni, who was with Northland in the New Zealand Cup, and Samoa age-group representative midfielder Tumua Manu, who has played for the Blues and performed well for Auckland this season.
Like Ta’avao, midfielder Bailyn Sullivan, loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula, and outside back Sean Wainui all impressed as injury replacements last season and have been rewarded with contracts for 2019.
Props: Kane Hames, Aidan Ross, Reuben O’Neill, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Sosefo Kautai, Angus Ta’avao
Hookers: Nathan Harris Liam Polwart, Samisoni Taukei’aho
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Tyler Ardron, Laghlan McWhannell, Michael Allardice, Fin Hoeata
Loose forwards: Mitchell Brown, Taleni Seu, Sam Cane, Mitchell Karpik, Lachlan Boshier, Luke Jacobson, Pita Gus Sowakula
Scrumhalves: Brad Weber, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jonathan Taumateine
Flyhalves: Damian McKenzie, Tiaan Falcon, Jack Debreczeni
Centres: Alex Nankivell, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tumua Manu, Bailyn Sullivan
Outside backs: Solomon Alaimalo, Sean Wainui, Ataata Moeakiola, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Shaun Stevenson, Marty McKenzie
Five new players have been included the 38-man Crusaders squad.
There are two new additions to the forwards in 2019. Whetukamokamo Douglas returns to the side having played six times for the Crusaders during their 2017 season. After a stint with Italian club Benetton, the former Waikato player returned to Christchurch for Canterbury’s New Zealand Cup campaign where he was named as co-captain, but was ruled out midway through the season due to a fractured thumb.
Twenty-one-year-old prop Harry Allan has been named in the Crusaders squad for the first time, although he has two Super Rugby caps to his name already.
Two Canterbury backs will also join the squad in 2019, in Brett Cameron and Ngane Punivai. Promising Tasman outside back Leicester Faingaanuku completes the 2019 squad.
2019 Crusaders squad:
Props: Michael Alaalatoa, Harry Allan, Owen Franks, Oliver Jager, Joe Moody, Tim Perry
Hookers: Ben Funnell, Andrew Makalio, Codie Taylor
Locks: Scott Barrett, Quinten Strange, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock
Loose forwards: Ethan Blackadder, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Mitchell Dunshea, Billy Harmon, Kieran Read, Tom Sanders, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd
Scrumhalves: Mitchell Drummond, Ereatara Enari, Bryn Hall
Flyhalves: Brett Cameron, Mitchell Hunt, Richie Mo’unga
Centres: Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Ngane Punivai
Outside backs: George Bridge, Israel Dagg, David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Faingaanuku, Will Jordan, Manasa Mataele
Marty Banks will play Super Rugby for the Highlanders in 2019 after an agreement was finalised with his Japanese club NTT Docomo. Banks who played 33 games for the Highlanders between 2015-2017 will bolster the flyhalf stocks with Josh Ioane and Bryn Gatland already signed for the franchise.
There are seven new caps among the 38 man squad, with five of those in the forwards. Hooker Ray Niuia from Tasman will be joined by Waikato props Ayden Johnstone and Josh Iosefa-Scott, who both had standout seasons for the Championship-winning Waikato team. Former Wallabies squad member and Reds prop Sef Fa’agase has returned from Australia and after a good New Zealand Cup season with Canterbury.
Premiership-winning Auckland supply lock Jack Whetton (son of former All Black Gary) while in the backs Bryn Gatland, who played for the Blues in 2018, makes his way south. He will be joined by rookie 19-year-old scrumhalf Folau Fakatava from Hawkes Bay.
2019 Highlanders squad:
Hookers: Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Ray Niuia
Props: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Tyrel Lomax, Sef Fa’agase
Locks: Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Paripari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Jack Whetton
Loosies: Luke Whitelock, Liam Squire, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Shannon Frizell, Elliot Dixon
Scrumhalves: Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava
Flyhalves: Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Marty Banks
Centres: Rob Thompson, Patelesio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Richard Buckman, Matt Faddes, Thomas Umaga-Jensen
Outside Backs: Waisake Naholo, Tevita Li, Tevita Nabura , Josh McKay, Ben Smith
There are just six new faces in new head coach John Plumtree’s 38-man Hurricanes squad, with Auckland wing Salesi Rayasi, Wellington midfielder Billy Proctor, former Highlanders flyhalf Fletcher Smith, two-time Super Rugby champion Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Wellington openside flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi and Manawatu utility forward Liam Mitchell joining the franchise.
Former Hurricanes utility back James Marshall returns to New Zealand rugby after playing in the United Kingdom and Japan, while Bay of Plenty scrumhalf Richard Judd is named in the squad after he made his debut in 2018 when he was called in as injury cover.
There are 12 players in the squad who were part of the All Blacks 2018 campaign, while four players – Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Jeff To’omaga-Allen and Dane Coles – are centurions of the Hurricanes franchise.
2019 Hurricanes squad:
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Ricky Riccitelli
Props: Fraser Armstrong, Chris Eves, Alex Fidow, Ben May, Toby Smith, Jeff To’omaga-Allen
Locks: James Blackwell, Geoff Cridge, Sam Lousi, Liam Mitchell, Isaia Walker-Leawere
Loose forwards: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Gareth Evans, Vaea Fifita, Sam Henwood, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea
Scrumhalves: Finlay Christie, Richard Judd, TJ Perenara
Flyhalves: Beauden Barrett, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Fletcher Smith
Centres: Vince Aso, Wes Goosen, Ngani Laumape, Billy Proctor, Matt Proctor
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, Ben Lam, Jonah Lowe, Nehe Milner-Skudder, James Marshall, Salesi Rayasi
Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images