Rugby: Donnelly heading to Crusaders

Former All Black lock Tom Donnelly will play for the Crusaders next season as the Highlanders look to free up cash to sign some gamebreakers.

Donnelly, who has played 63 times for the Highlanders and 73 times for Otago, has moved north to the Crusaders to seek more playing time and a new challenge.

Highlanders general manager Roger Clark confirmed Donnelly, who is still contracted with Otago, would play for the Crusaders next year.

"Tom moving on is just part of the new landscape we have here with direct franchise contracting and the need for each franchise to settle on squads for next season," Clark said yesterday.

"Tom has been a great servant for the Highlanders over the years but from the Highlanders' perspective, and both parties really, it is a good time for Tom to move on.

"We have made no secret of the fact as we go forward we need strike players and we are looking at signing some backs rather than forwards."

Clark said Donnelly had obviously worked hard for the Highlanders over the years but perhaps it was time for a new challenge for the player.

He said though Donnelly leaving would mean there may be more cash to spend, budgets had to be kept in mind. Donnelly could not be contacted yesterday.

With Brad Thorn leaving to play in Japan and Chris Jack also having moved to Japan there are vacancies in the Crusaders engine room, and Donnelly should be able to walk into the starting XV. He is still contracted with Otago for next year.

Donnelly, who will turn 30 next month, was an All Black in 2009 and last year. He played 15 tests but did not wear the black jersey this year.

Donnelly played his first game for the Highlanders in 2004 and has shared the locking duties with numerous partners over the years.

He enjoyed limited time with the Highlanders this year as coach Jamie Joseph preferred the locking combination of Jarrad Hoeata and Josh Bekhuis.

With Donnelly moving on and Joe Tuineau - who did not play a minute of last season - also unlikely to feature next year, the Highlanders will be looking around for another couple of locks.

Otago lock Daniel Ramsay could be a candidate along with Waikato's Tony Lynn. Former All Black and Hurricanes lock Jason Eaton is another second-rower who might be keen to come to Dunedin.

Eaton is not contracted next season with any franchise after not getting an offer from the Hurricanes, and has been in good form with Taranaki.

Clark said no progress had been made with signing any new players.

An offer had been put in front of Hosea Gear but the discarded All Black winger has yet to make a decision on his future.

Clark said progress had been made with trying to re-sign some more players but until the ink was dry and the deal was sealed then players could not be named.

Negotiations were also progressing well with Kendrick Lynn and captain Jamie Mackintosh to sign for next season.

Otago hooker Liam Coltman is believed to be in the sights of the Hurricanes to back up Dan Coles.

The Highlanders have already got two hookers for next season in veterans Jason Rutledge and Andrew Hore but are looking to name a hooker in their wider training squad.


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