Herring: professional chances great for players

Josh Larsen.
Josh Larsen.
As more opportunities arrive for players, Otago coach Ben Herring believes it is fantastic that some have the chance to become professional players for 12 months of the year.

Otago lock Josh Larsen has joined a side from Texas in Major League Rugby, the newest club competition to take place in the United States.

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

He has represented Canada since last year, and will line up for the side in the World Cup repechage competition in France over coming weeks, where Canada, Germany, Kenya and Hong Kong will do battle to win the final place for next year's World Cup in Japan.

Larsen, as he is a Canadian, qualifies for the league in the United States as a local player.

The season runs from January to June and involves nine teams in a round robin format.

A previous competition in the United States, which attracted players such as former Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh, folded after one season. The new league had a successful first season in the first half of this year.

Herring said it was a good move for Larsen, and enabling players to play all year round was a great thing for them.

They only had a limited shelf life, so any opportunity that came along to play professionally was good, Herring said.

It was believed other Otago players were involved in heading Stateside, including the likes of winger Mitchell Scott and lock Tom Rowe.

Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley said the union was not involved in any of the negotiations to get players to play in the United States. Some players might be looking at contracts, but they were not contracted to Otago at the moment.

Meanwhile, Herring and his fellow coaches have conducted the review of the past season, and he said there were a lot of positives to come out of it.

The side had won the Ranfurly Shield off Waikato, and made it through to the final of the Mitre 10 Cup championship, where it lost to Waikato.

Herring said the season had gone well, and there was a couple of things the coaches may address next year.

They may add a little more depth to the training squad and also look at tweaking the year-round training for the players.

Herring, in his first year in charge of Otago, said he had enjoyed the season. His contract was only for nine months of the year, so he would spend the next few weeks taking him and his family (he is married with four children) around New Zealand in a camper van.

Otago tighthead prop Hisa Sasagi has signed a short-term deal with English glamour club Saracens. Saracens have signed the Samoan prop until the end of January.

The defending Premiership champion is without several forwards, who are away on international duty, so Sasagi has been signed to cover some holes, in the front row.

The 31-year-old had an impressive season for Otago, and would be considered unlucky not to make a Super Rugby side.


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