Rugby: Donnelly named in ITM Cup squad

Otago coach Tony Brown makes a signal with first five-eighth Peter Breen beside him at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago coach Tony Brown makes a signal with first five-eighth Peter Breen beside him at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Otago has retained the core of its side from last season, adding six new faces, in its squad to contest the ITM Cup this season.

The squad features the return of former All Black lock Tom Donnelly, along with another veteran in Erza Taylor.

The six new players yet to play for Otago are prop Craig Millar, openside flanker Willis Scott, halfback Josh Renton, midfield back Teihorangi Walden, and outside backs Kieran Moffat and Fa'asiu Fuatai.

Lock Jackson Hemopo and outside back Marshall Suckling would have made the squad but have been sidelined by injury.

Hemopo damaged ligaments in his foot in May and is out for the season while Suckling tore his ACL ligament in his knee last week in a game for the Sassenachs against the Spartans and is also out for the season.

Brown said it was tough for both players but injuries were a part of rugby.

He said the squad was the best he could pick from the talent available.

Donnelly (31) was keen to come back to Otago after last playing for the province in 2011. He has played 73 games for Otago.

''Tom is staying in New Zealand and he wants to play for Otago if he stays here,'' Brown said.

''It's good to have him back here as after losing three locks from last year that has been an area of concern for us during the club season.''

Donnelly played in Japan last year and was believed to have been chased by other provinces with deeper pockets, but Brown said money never came into the equation in getting the 15-test All Black back to Otago.

He has played for the Crusaders over the past couple of years.

Three locks have left Otago from last year - Justin Ives is staying in Japan, Rob Verbakel is in England and Hemopo is injured. Brown said Taylor was seen as a locking option, and he would be competing with Donnelly, Tom Franklin and Charlie O'Connell.

Paul Grant will captain the side.

Brown said it was good to get the bulk of the side back from last year and he was looking forward to a big year.

''One of our goals is to build on that experience we picked up last year and go on from there. We got a few more guys in the Highlanders and they are getting a bit more experience as rugby players.

''The boys are pretty keen to get out there and get started. It is going to be tough but we want to go out there and play some exciting rugby.''

Notable players gone from last year are Glenn Dickson (England), Tamati Ellison (Japan) and Adam Thomson (Japan).

Brown said there were some close selection calls made, with the other halfback in the squad, after Fumiaki Tanaka, coming down to a straight choice between Josh Renton and Brad Weber.

Renton, who is the first year out of the Otago Boys' High School first XV, won the nod ahead of Weber as Brown felt he had the better skill set to suit the side.

Willis Scott was included as an openside flanker ahead of Hadleigh May after impressive club form.

May is serving a suspension picked up at the world junior championships and cannot play until mid- September.

Key midfield back Jayden Spence is still recovering from a bad head knock and Brown said he was still a week to week proposition.

He hoped Spence would be available for the first ITM Cup match against Bay of Plenty on August 18.

No vice-captain has been named.

The side takes on Tasman (August 4) and Southland (August 9) in pre-season games.

Ben Smith has been named in the squad but, with All Black commitments, is unlikely to play any games in the blue and gold jersey.

Otago made it to the final of the ITM Cup Championship section last year before losing to Counties-Manukau.



Forwards: Paul Grant (captain), Lee Allan, Hugh Blake, Gareth Evans, TJ Ioane, Charlie O'Connell, Willis Scott, Tom Donnelly, Tom Franklin, Ezra Taylor, Scott Manson, Craig Millar, Tama Tuitirangi, Aki Seuili, Liam Coltman, Sam Anderson-Heather.

Backs: Josh Renton, Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker, Peter Breen, Michael Collins, Teihorangi Walden, Jayden Spence, Kieran Moffat, Matt Faddes, Fa'asiu Fuatai, Buxton Popoali'i, Tony Ensor.

Also: Ben Smith.



Tanaka v Weber

Highlander, I would would have to agree with tomkeys. Tanaka is absolutely brilliant. He has taken a huge paycut and has sacrificed a lot to commit to Otago for a second season. I personally rate him as one of the best in the world, but even if he wasn't here for another season I would hesitate to play Weber.

I have seen him play, he may have heart but I do not for one second believe he has the rugby brain required for anything above club rugby. Last year during those few games he got on for Otago, the choices he made cost the team and unfortunatly he is potentially a liability at this level.

If Tanaka wasn't here Tony would likely have to look elsewhere for a starting halfback, because as unfortunate as it may be, simple heart and likeability is not going to cut it.

Same thing, same result

Tomkeys needs to wake up and look at Otago rugby in a more detached manner. Just because I have a different view on player selection that doesn't make me less supportive of Otago. Open debate is what challenges the way people think, and in recent years Otago and the Highlanders have been plagued by poor if not downright ridiculous player selections.

If in your view Weber didn't deserve a chance at a higher level, you need your head read. Josh Renton is a young quality player and his time will come but he has helluva lot to learn and has been plagued by injuries this year. As for Tanaka coming to Dunedin to play for Zingari - yeah right. And as for being a superstar, if he were he would have started for the Highlanders in every game.

The saying goes, 'if you do the same old thing you will get the same old result', and in my view poor player selection and recruitment is at the heart of Otago and the Highlanders problems, and Weber's non selection shows it is still there, alive and well. Let's wait and see what happens.


Ten percent of the squad is made up of ex-Otago Boys first XV captains.  Way to go, Otago.

Go Otago

Highlander1 says "... no quality local player should be discarded".
Is Weber local? I think he hails from Hawkes Bay and has come to Otago to play club rugby. Lost to Otago very soon? Quite possibly, he might return to Hawkes Bay.
Fumiaki Tanaka hails from Japan and has come to Otago to Play for Zingari Richmond - what's the difference? Fumiaki is an international superstar and a Super player. Why wouldn't Otago want his ability and charisma? .
And on that local question - isn't Josh Renton local? Otago born and raised, and schooled at Otago Boys.
Highlander1, I think it's time you support Tony and the Blue and Gold. It clearly states "Josh won the nod ahead of Weber as Brown felt he had the better skill set to suit the side", and I would back Tony Brown's call over yours. [Abridged]


Brad Weber the best halfback in Otago

Brown said 'the squad was the best he could pick from the talent available'. what rubbish. With no disrespect to Renton but Brad Weber is clearly the best halfback in Otago rugby by a long way and no quality local player should be discarded in favour of a an import from Japan. There just seems no sense to this decision and I don't think anyone who follows club rugby in Dunedin would disagree that weber is one of the classiest and talented backs Otago has. I can see Weber being lost to Otago very soon.