Alatini honoured to be selected in tens squad

Pita Alatini
Pita Alatini
Pita Alatini says it is an honour to be named as the Highlanders wildcard for next week’s Brisbane Tens  but knows the body could be in for a wake-up call.

Alatini was named yesterday as the Highlanders wildcard selection for the tournament, joining Carlos Spencer (Blues), Drew Mitchell (Waratahs) and Carl Hayman (Pau) in coming out of retirement to participate in the  tournament.

A former midfield back, Alatini played 48 matches for the Highlanders and 17 tests for the All Blacks before spending nine seasons in Japan.

The 41-year-old was approached by Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger to join the team.

"Azza [Mauger] rang me and started talking about the Highlanders and how things are going and what they are doing. That sounded all great and then he worked it round to me being the wildcard. That was a bit of a surprise," he said.

"It is a real honour and one I said yes to. But now I’m thinking, having watched a few of the games from last year, yeah, I’m not so sure.

"Maybe I’ll play at first receiver, pass the ball on and then back up."

He played some masters rugby last year and also for a president’s grade team and is doing some training.

"I’m just trying to get the stomach down to fit the trousers line a bit more."

Alatini is  still heavily involved in the sport as the director of rugby at the Pakuranga club in Auckland. He has coached the premier team for the past five years but has stepped aside this year.

Alatini will be part of a Highlanders squad which includes nine players yet to play for the team.

All Blacks No8 Luke Whitelock and flanker Dillon Hunt are in the squad, as are experienced hands Richard Buckman, Ash Dixon and Elliot Dixon.

Elliot Dixon is back earlier than expected after having an operation on a bicep at the end of last season and making good progress.

Winger Ryan Tongia, who played four games for the Highlanders in 2015-16, and is contracted to Southland, has joined the squad to make up numbers.

Mauger said earlier this week the entire Highlanders squad — not just those playing in the tens — would head to Brisbane next Wednesday and  train together as a squad.

The side had not trained much for the tens so far but would look more closely at the format next week.

The Highlanders play the Chiefs, Waratahs and Pau in pool play at the tens.


Highlanders squad
for Brisbane Tens

Forwards: Aki Seiuli, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Tyrel Lomax, Alex Ainley, Paripari Parkinson, Elliot Dixon, Dan Pryor, Shannon Frizell, Luke Whitelock, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Kalolo Tuiloma, Guy Millar, Ash Dixon, Josh Dickson.

Backs: Kayne Hammington, Josh Renton, Josh Ioane, Fletcher Smith, Tevita Nabura, Tei Walden, Ryan Tongia, Josh McKay, Richard Buckman, Terrance Hepetema, Pita Alatini.

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