Rugby: Brown to call on plenty of new talent

Liam Coltman
Liam Coltman
New Otago coach Tony Brown will name his first squad today and plenty of new faces are likely to appear.

With the union having gone through the financial wringer since the team last played a game in August last year, Brown is limited in who he can choose in his 28-man squad.

There will be no draft players from outside the union, and no players transferred in from other unions.

At least half of the 32 players used by Otago last year will not wear the blue jersey this year.

Those players have left the union, retired, gone overseas or simply will not be picked.

Experienced lock Tom Donnelly, who captained Otago in its last game of the 2011 campaign, against Manawatu at Forsyth Barr Stadium, has signed a contract with the Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan, and will leave New Zealand after his Super 15 commitments end with the Crusaders.

Brad Weber
Brad Weber
Others who have moved on include centre Ben Atiga (Scotland), midfield back Sam Giddens (Hawkes Bay), halfback Sean Romans (England), lock Daniel Ramsay (France), prop Halani Aulika (England) and hooker Jason Macdonald (retired).

Brown featured as a player last year but he will not be playing this season, while prop Kees Meeuws has also moved into coaching and has hung up his boots.

With finances tight, the union is looking inward, and Brown will name a team who have all played club rugby within the province.

Brown and co-coach Phil Young have had a squad of up to 40 training during the club season and have slowly whittled the number down.

Lock Rob Verbakel has come back from playing for Glasgow and made an appearance off the bench for University at the weekend.

Hooker Liam Coltman made a comeback for his club side, Alhambra-Union, last Saturday after his season looked in doubt because of a neck injury.

Shota Horie
Shota Horie
The side may prove a bit light in the tight five, with Verbakel, Tom Franklin and Justin Ives likely to be the locks. There are doubts over prop Jacob Ellison, who has injured his back, while former Hurricanes prop Tama Tuirirangi could be a late bolter.

Likely newcomers include Dunedin halfback Brad Weber, Alhambra-Union first five-eighth Peter Breen and Zingari-Richmond duo Shota Horie and Fumiaki Tanaka, who are Japanese internationals.

Ben Smith, Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson will be named in the Otago squad but may not play due to All Black commitments.

Otago will have three warm-up games, against South Canterbury (August 1), Tasman (August 12) and Southland (August 17), before its ITM Cup campaign starts with a home game against Northland on August 25.



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