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