Japan popular place for Otago locks

Tom Franklin
Tom Franklin.
The Japanese connection continues with Otago players.

Three locks from the Otago side of recent years are in or will be in Japan over the next 12 months.

Tom Franklin, who played more than 50 games for Otago before heading to Bay of Plenty in the 2017 season, is now in Japan, playing for the Kobe Steelers.

Franklin (28) will return to play for the Highlanders next year which is expected to be his final year in New Zealand rugby.

Fellow lock Tom Rowe is believed to have picked up a contract with the Sunwolves Super Rugby franchise in Japan for next season.

Rowe (27), a promising basketballer who played for the Junior Tall Blacks, switched to rugby about five years ago and has slowly risen up the representative ranks.

He made his debut for Otago in 2016 but his representative career has been blighted by injury and he was hindered by a shoulder injury last season.

The former Otago Nugget was not picked up by a Super Rugby franchise in this country and was believed to be looking elsewhere. He is still contracted with Otago for the 2019 season but has been considering his options.

He is an athletic player, a dominant lineout forward and excellent ball handler but there are some doubts about his endurance and ability to stay on the field.

A stalwart of the Zingari-Richmond club, his absence will be a big blow for the Montecillo club.

With Super Rugby finishing in July this year, Rowe could still come back and play for Otago.

Also likely to head to Japan next year is Josh Larsen.

Larsen made his debut for Otago this season, after sustaining a dislocated elbow at the start of the representative season. The 24-year-old was part of the Canadian national team that qualified for the World Cup after a repecharge tournament finished in France over the weekend.

Larsen did not make the starting side for the final game of the tournament where Canada beat Hong Kong to seal its participation next year. Canada is in the same group as the All Blacks in next year's competition.

Larsen was born in Canada and lived there for the first three years of his life before coming to New Zealand.

It appears unlikely he will be sighted in an Otago jersey next year.

He has signed for a United States club team for the first half of next year and then, if picked, would head to Japan to play in the World Cup.

Another Otago lock, Blair Tweed, was playing for the Canon Eagles in Japan but has picked up a serious back injury and has not played for the past few games. It is unclear when or whether he will get back on the field.

Tweed went to Japan following the 2017 season for Otago, after playing 25 games for the blue and golds.


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