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By NZRU Media Unit
New Zealand’s five Super Rugby franchises have named their squads for the 2012 season, each with a mouth-watering line-up of experienced and emerging international rugby talent.
A total of 28 brand new faces feature in the squads named today by the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders. Another five familiar faces – Tusi Pisi, Tamati Ellison, Tim Bateman, Ross Kennedy and Rudi Wulf – all return from overseas to make their re-entry to the Super Rugby stage next year.
New Zealand Rugby Union General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen said the 153 players contracted into the five squads included an enticing mix of seasoned All Blacks, and real new talent coming through New Zealand rugby ranks.
“These five Investec Super Rugby teams are the strongest and most exciting we have ever seen straight off the back of a Rugby World Cup year. It’s reassuring that while some of our senior players are taking the next phase of their rugby careers offshore – the depth of talent available to Super Rugby selectors this year has been impressive,” Sorensen said.
Five Pacific Island and foreign players who starred in the recent Rugby World Cup have also been picked in the squads, including England No 8 James Haskell who will join the Highlanders after completing a spell with the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan. After a two-year stint in France, Haskell will return to his old team London Wasps at the conclusion of his season with the Southern men. Others coming in from World Cup duty are new Hurricane Tusi Pisi (Samoa), and new Chiefs Kane Thompson, Mahonri Schwalger (both Samoa), and Sona Taumalolo (Tonga).
“The full transition to the new franchise contracting structure has again delivered an outstanding set of competitive, exciting and dynamic New Zealand Super Rugby teams.
Features of this year’s Investec Super Rugby selections include:
• 153 players across the five Investec Super Rugby franchises
• 28 players new to Super Rugby
• Of the 28, 12 ‘bolters’ were picked on 2011 ITM Cup form
• Eight players from the 2011 IRB Junior World Champions Under 20 side
• Two members of the IRB World Series winning Sevens team
• 14 players changing franchise colours
“For many New Zealanders, being involved in rugby has been an amazing experience in a Rugby World Cup winning year. With such a fantastic line up of teams from the New Zealand franchises, I am sure they will bring something special to the 2012 Super Rugby season,” Sorensen said.