Rugby: Brown banks on talents of Otago players

Tony Brown (right) talks with players (from left): Matt Faddes, Adam Hill and Lee Allan at the...
Tony Brown (right) talks with players (from left): Matt Faddes, Adam Hill and Lee Allan at the naming of the Otago squad at Dunedin City Ford last night. Photo by Linda Robertson.
An almost entirely new team of players has been named in the Otago squad to contest the ITM Cup, as coach Tony Brown banks on local talent.

Brown named his squad last night for the provincial competition. Fourteen of the 31 players named have not yet played for Otago.

The squad was always going to have plenty of new faces, and locals in particular, after a clean-out from last year and the union forced to cut its wage bill.

Brown believed the squad was a good mix of players. It was setting no major goals, but simply wanted to play good, hard rugby.

"I think we have picked a team of exciting players who, as long as we prepare well and understand what we are trying to do in terms of how we are going to play the game, can do well," Brown said.

"Playing hard and tough does not always turn into wins in rugby games but if the guys do that and we make sure they understand the structures we are trying to use, then we will be competitive."

He said getting a mix of local players, with students thrown in, was the way Otago had always worked.

Players in the squad yet to play for Otago are: hooker Shota Horie, props Tama Tuirirangi, Jacob Ellison and Aki Seiuli, lock Justin Ives, loose forwards Hugh Blake and Lee Allan, halfbacks Brad Weber and Fumiaki Tanaka, first five-eighth Peter Breen, midfielders Michael Collins and Tamati Ellison, and outside backs Kieran Moffat and Marshall Suckling.

All Blacks Adam Thomson, Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison have been named but may not play for Otago as they could be on international duty.

Either Moffat, Breen or Allen will drop out of the squad should one of the international trio not make the national side.

Prop Jacob Ellison has a bulging disc in his back and his season is in doubt. He is waiting for the injury to settle down. If it does not heal he will have an operation and miss the season.

Outside back Marshall Suckling tore ligaments in his ankle in a club game last week but should be right in about a month.

Hooker Liam Coltman has recovered from a disc problem in his neck and is fit for the season.

Otago will be captained by Eben Joubert, who skippered the side last year before injury curtailed his season.

Brown said the financial dramas the union had been through in the past six months had no impact on the team, and if anything was a help.

"It means we have got back to what playing rugby really means: playing for each other, with your mates, and money does not really come into it and doesn't mean a hell of a lot."

He was excited by the likes of new prop Seiuli, and looked forward to players such as Coltman and lock Tom Franklin to make the next step up this season.

He said halfback Johnny Legg and outside backs Tony Ensor and Joe Hill were unlucky to miss out.

Brown, who will return to Japan at the end of the season to coach Panasonic, will be assisted by Phil Young. Kees Meeuws will be scrum coach and will also assist the forwards. Tim Colling will be the analyst and skills coach.

Brown has a busy month in front of him. His wife, Alexandra, is due to give birth to a daughter early next month.

The couple already have a daughter, Amelie (5).

ITM Cup squad
Forwards: Sam Anderson-Heather, Liam Coltman, Shota Horie, Scott Manson, Jacob Ellison, Tama Tuirirangi, Aki Seiuli, Rob Verbakel, Tom Franklin, Justin Ives, Eben Joubert (captain), Hugh Blake, TJ Ioane, Paul Grant, Gareth Evans, Adam Thomson, Adam Hill, Lee Allan.
Backs: Brad Weber, Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker, Peter Breen, Glenn Dickson, Michael Collins, Tamati Ellison, Jayden Spence, Kieran Moffat, Buxton Popoali'i, Marshall Suckling, Matt Faddes, Ben Smith.

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