Blues confirm deal with league star Tuivasa-Sheck

Super Rugby - Aotearoa
by AFP

New Zealand rugby league star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck confirmed Saturday plans to switch to rival code rugby union an djoin the Auckland Blues as he looks to make the All Blacks 2023 World Cup side.

Signing the latest cross-code jumper on a two-year deal has been described by New Zealand Rugby as a "major coup" as he follows in the footsteps of double World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams.

Tuivasa-Sheck, who two years ago won the coveted Dally M medal for the player of the year in Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) competition, will make the switch after seeing out this NRL season as captain of the New Zealand Warriors.

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The Samoan-born Aucklander will join Auckland in New Zealand's domestic rugby competition and has signed on with the Blues Super Rugby side from 2022.

The 27-year-old has become one of the biggest names in rugby league since embarking on a professional career in 2012, a year after playing for the New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby union side with current All Blacks Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, and Ngani Laumape.

"It has been a dream of mine for a long time to one day play rugby union again, to get this opportunity with New Zealand Rugby, the Blues and Auckland is exciting. The timing feels right to do this now," Tuivasa-Sheck said after the deal was signed.

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But with the All Blacks stacked with quality outside backs, including Beauden and Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Damian McKenzie and Caleb Clarke, Tuivasa-Sheck is aware there are no obvious vacancies in his favoured wing and fullback berths.

"You don't just walk into a brand like All Blacks. It's about going back toplay rugby and having a crack at it," he said.

During his stellar league career, Tuivasa-Sheck won the NRL premiership in 2013 when playing for the Sydney Roosters, and played 20 internationals for New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby's general manager of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum, described Tuivasa-Sheck's return to union as "a major coup and would be welcomed by players and fans alike".

"It's hugely exciting for everyone in rugby to have Roger back playingrugby union... Roger has some goals he wants to achieve in rugby, and we arethrilled to be able to give him the opportunity to chase those goals," he said.