Ex-Highlanders lurk, but unlikely to play

Past Highlanders are in the South, but few of them are believed to be looking at putting the boots on.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought lots of sport across the world to its knees and led to mass cancellations to leagues.

Players are stuck with nowhere to go, and most have headed home back to New Zealand to wait and see what will happen.

The 15-man game is no exception: leagues in France, Italy, Ireland and the United States have been abandoned, leaving players with little to do and many of them have returned home.

Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Liam Squire, Joe Wheeler and Josh Renton have all returned to New Zealand, among many other players.

But most are still tied to their current clubs and will not be playing while here.

Smith is heading for Japan, Naholo is still tied with London Irish, Squire is playing in Japan, Wheeler has moved into production with Sky TV and Renton has now gone back to Italy to prepare for the new season.

Others such as Liam Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa simply decided to stay put in England. Training has started again in the English league.

Former Highlanders captain Nasi Manu is back in New Zealand and there is speculation he is set to sign with Otago.

But Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley said nothing has been signed for Manu.

Manu, who turns 32 this month, has had a roller coaster career since he left the Highlanders. His last game for the Highlanders was the 2015 Super Rugby final, when the Highlanders beat the Hurricanes to win their first and only title.

Manu linked with Scottish club Edinburgh where he played for two seasons, although injury got in the way and he made limited appearances.

He then moved to Benetton Treviso and completed a couple of seasons with the Italian outfit.

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy treatment for most of 2018, but he managed to get well again.

After pursuing an All Black dream for many years he decided to play for Tonga and played for the Tongan side at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

His contract with Benetton has come to an end and he is believed to be still keen to keep playing.

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