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New Zealand Super Rugby squads named
ESPN Staff
October 29, 2013

New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises have announced their squads and released their new playing kits for the 2014 season.

Blues

Pita Ahki, Kane Barrett, Luke Braid, Charlie Faumuina, Tom Donnelly, Jamison Gibson-Park, Frank Halai, Bryn Hall, Jerome Kaino, Baden Kerr, Steven Luatua, Benji Marshall, Tom McCartney, Keven Mealamu, George Moala, Liaki Moli, Chris Noakes, Ma'a Nonu, Brendon O'Connor, James Parsons, Charles Piutau, Sam Prattley, Culum Retallick, Francis Saili, Peter Saili, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Lolagi Visinia, Piri Weepu, Jackson Willison, Tony Woodcock.

Wider training squad: Joe Edwards, Simon Hickey, Tevita Li, Tom Murday, Albert Nikoro.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan is excited about a more balanced squad for 2014 as he heads into his second campaign in charge with fellow coaches Sir Graham Henry, Grant Doorey, Mick Byrne and Nick White. "After our first season we had a really long look at what we needed and that was a little bit more experience to complement the excitement of our young guys," Kirwan said. "What we've tried to do is bring in some of that experience and keep the excitement so you'll see the squad is a lot more balanced but we've also kept a lot of youth, especially in the wider training group."

That experience comes in the form of Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu, who have all returned to the franchise following stints away, while promising Auckland lock Patrick Tuipulotu, experienced campaigner Tom Donnelly and star rugby league recruit Benji Marshall are the only players yet to wear the Blues jumper.

"I think the whole country is excited about someone like Patrick Tuipulotu," Kirwan said. "He's been in the New Zealand Under-20s, was a big contributor there and before getting injured during the ITM Cup we saw what he could do on that stage. He's a new kid on the block but he's also ready physically and hopefully mentally he'll step straight up and put some pressure on the other guys.

"And of course Benji Marshall. Everyone's really excited about his involvement. He's already been in the organisation and everyone is impressed with his professionalism and what he's going to bring so it's going to be great to see him grow into it."

Chiefs

Ben Afeaki, Bundee Aki, Gareth Anscombe, Sam Cane, Nick Crosswell, Aaron Cruden, Hikawera Elliot, Ross Filipo, Mike Fitzgerald, Robbie Fruean, Josh Hohneck, Andrew Horrell, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tanerau Latimer, James Lowe, Jamie Mackintosh, Pauliasi Manu, Rhys Marshall, Tom Marshall, Liam Messam, Mils Muliaina, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Augustine Pulu, Brodie Retallick, Robbie Robinson, Mahonri Schwalger, Liam Squire, Matthew Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Kane Thompson, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Wider training squad: Carl Axtens, Nick Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tevita Koloamatangi, Brad Weber.

The Chiefs have a well balanced squad featuring five All Blacks and Maori All Blacks and 26 players with Super Rugby experience alongside seven ITM Cup graduates as they seek their third consecutive title in 2014.

The Chiefs will be without former co-captain Craig Clarke, who signed off his Super Rugby career with the team's second Super title before joining Irish club Connacht, but his departure sees the likes of Manawatu lock Mike Fitzgerald, Wellington's Ross Filipo and Canterbury's Matt Symons, who had an outstanding ITM Cup campaign with six-time defending champions Canterbury, vying for the No.5 jersey alongside Brodie Retallick built a solid pairing in the set piece.

Highly touted signings Jamie Mackintosh (Southland), Robbie Fruean (Canterbury) and Mils Muliaina (unattached) add mountains of experience to the two-time defending champions, and Kane Thompson returns from a year away to put himself in contention for one of the loose forward roles. Tasman's provincial success in the ITM Cup Championship has trickled down to some of their leading players, with James Lowe, Liam Squire and Tom Marshall all gaining contracts, while Tevita Koloamatangi has been handed a spot in the wider training squad.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie believes his squad will be an effective blend of experienced proven performers and new talent. "We are really happy. We have a solid core of players who have been a big part of our success over the past two years and added both youth and experience to the mix. It's a very tough competition, so we're rapt we've been able to assemble a group of men high on character and work ethic."

Crusaders

Dominic Bird, Tyler Bleyendaal, Daniel Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Ryan Crotty, Andy Ellis, Israel Dagg, Mitchell Drummond, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Zac Guildford, Willi Heinz, Nepo Laulala, Rey Lee-Lo, Richie McCaw, Johnny McNicholl, Joe Moody, Nemani Nadolo, Tim Perry, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Colin Slade, Jordan Taufua, Codie Taylor.Tom Taylor, Matt Todd, Jimmy Tupou, Adam Whitelock, George Whitelock, Luke Whitelock, Sam Whitelock.

Wider training squad: Nafi Tuitavake, Kieron Fonotia, Rob Thompson, Jed Brown, Mike Kainga.

The Crusaders jumper is now just red © crusaders.co.nz
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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder's 2014 Super Rugby squad features 27 players who made the 2013 semi-finals , with just five newcomers . And one of the five new faces in the squad - Colin Slade - is simply returning home having played for the Crusaders in 2009 and 2010 mainly on the wing and at fullback. Blackadder says it is fantastic to welcome Slade back into the fold: "The experience and talent that Colin Slade adds to this group is immense. He'll be a crucial member of the team, especially at first five while Dan Carter is on extended leave, but he has the advantage of being able to play virtually anywhere in the back line."

Mitchell Drummond, who will turn 20 as the competition begins, is the youngest member of the squad. A former Nelson College First XV captain, Drummond was a member of the New Zealand Barbarians secondary schools rugby team last year, was selected in the New Zealand under-19 touch team, and was one of six school students chosen to train with the All Black Sevens team at a training camp early this year. "Mitch is young, but he has natural talent, fine pedigree and the right attitude to take him far," Blackadder said. "He will continue to benefit from working alongside our experienced halfbacks, Andy Ellis and Willi Heinz, as he has done in this year's ITM Cup. We are excited about his future.

Rey Lee-Lo adds some firepower to the midfield, having made his Super Rugby debut with the Hurricanes last year after being part of the Chiefs development squad in 2011. "Rey will really help to bolster our midfield stock. He is a strong player, has a good rugby brain, and puts in the hard yards. I think he will fit in really well in the Crusaders environment," Blackadder said.

Fijian winger, Nemani Nadolo, will make an impact on the Crusaders' back line in 2014. Currently playing for NEC Green Rockets in the Japan Top League, Nadolo has also captained the Fijian Warriors team and spent one Super Rugby season with the Waratahs in 2009. "At 1.95m and nearly 130kg, he is an absolute hulk of a man, yet he can fly down the field like you wouldn't believe for a man that size. Comparisons have been drawn with Jonah Lomu, and we can't wait to work with him and unleash him in this competition."

Highlanders

Kurt Baker, Josh Bekhuis, Phil Burleigh, Shane Christie, Liam Coltman, Matias Diaz, Elliot Dixon, Jason Emery, Gareth Evans, Malakai Fekitoa, Ma'afu Fia, Tom Franklin, Kane Hames, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, TJ Ioane, Chris King, Nasi Manu, Brayden Mitchell, Patrick Osborne, Hayden Parker, Buxton Popoalii, Willie Ripia, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Winston Stanley, Fumiaki Tanaka, Brad Thorn, Joe Wheeler, Frae Wilson.

Wider training group: Lee Allan, Richard Buckman, Craig Millar, Trent Renata, Ged Robinson.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has seen a number of experienced players leave the franchise in the wake of the disappointing season in 2013, but he says nevertheless that he has a balanced squad for 2014 with depth across the board. "We have a core group of players returning from 2013, which allows continuity, but to have 14 new faces brings new ideas and enthusiasm," Joseph said.

Kurt Baker returns to the Highlanders after a season with the Crusaders, joined in the backs by Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland), Patrick Osborne (Canterbury), Bay of Plenty captain Willie Ripia, and Winston Stanley (Western Force). In the forwards, Tasman captain Shane Christie joins alongside Argentina international Matias Diaz, Kane Hames (Bay of Plenty) and Otago players Tom Franklin and Gareth Evans.

Joseph has named Ben Smith and Nasi Manu as co-captains for 2014, and he said the decision was reflective of the approach the team would take into the season. "As a coaching group, we've selected two players we know will lead from the front and who have the experience and respect of the whole squad. The role of captain in a Super Rugby team is vital to the success of the team, and sharing the workload between two complementary players was a big part of our decision"

Smith has played 72 games for the Highlanders since making his Super Rugby debut in 2009 against the Brumbies. Manu has played 49 Super Rugby games after making his debut in 2008 for the Crusaders. Manu joined the Highlanders in 2010 and has played 33 games for the franchise.

Hurricanes

Mark Abbott, Beauden Barrett, Marty Banks, Tim Bateman, James Broadhurst, Dane Coles, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks, Reggie Goodes, Cory Jane, Jack Lam, , Alapati Leiua Faifili Levave, James Marshall, Motu Matu'u, Hadleigh Parkes, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea, Julian Savea, John Schwalger, Brad Shields, Eric Sione, Conrad Smith, Chris Smylie, Andre Taylor, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Cardiff Vaega, Victor Vito.

Wider training squad: Chris Eves, Callum Gibbins, Adam Hill, Billy Guyton, Nehe Milner-Skudder.

The Hurricanes have named eight new faces in their squad for 2014, including four additions to the team's wider training group. They have 26 players returning from the 2013 season, with the addition of newcomers Mark Abbott, Marty Banks, Cardiff Vaega and Hadleigh Parkes. John Schwalger also returns to Super Rugby after a successful ITM Cup campaign with Wellington Lions, while former wider training group member Ash Dixon steps into the 32-man squad.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said he was happy with what his squad offered across the board, and was thrilled with the way many of them had performed during the ITM Cup season. "Many of the players we have this year have shown a great deal of maturity throughout the ITM Cup. I also think the youth we had in our team three years ago have now gained a lot of experience as both international and Super Rugby players, and I'm confident that group of players will step up this season."

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