Owen Franks set to make Super Rugby return - report

Former Crusaders prop Owen Franks has signed with the Hurricanes on a one-year deal for the 2022...
Former Crusaders prop Owen Franks has signed with the Hurricanes on a one-year deal for the 2022 season. Photo: Getty Images
Former Crusaders prop Owen Franks is reportedly set to make a surprise return to New Zealand rugby - but not for his old side.

Newshub is reporting that Franks has signed with the Hurricanes on a one-year deal for the 2022 season.

Franks, 33, has been playing in England for Northampton after his 108-test All Blacks career ended when he wasn't wanted for the 2019 All Blacks World Cup squad.

It would be a surprising chance of scenery for Franks, who played all of his 150 Super Rugby games for the Crusaders, winning three titles, and had seemingly played his final games in New Zealand when running out for Canterbury in the NPC in 2019.

Franks' signing would continue a busy period for the Hurricanes, who on Monday saw inspirational halfback TJ Perenara re-sign with the franchise and New Zealand Rugby until 2023, before shortly after they lost All Blacks midfielder Ngani Laumape, who agreed to a lucrative offer to join French club Stade Francais from July 1.

Laumape was not named in the Hurricanes' team to play the Waratahs on Friday in their opening game of Super Rugby Transtasman, but coach Jason Holland insisted it was a coincidence.

"That's been part of our plan since the back end of the earlier comp, we were looking forward to the Transtasman thinking if we're going to win it, we're not going to be able to go through that with the same 23 every week," he said of Laumape's exclusion.

"The mindset to make sure everyone is fresh and ready to go at the end of the season, we're not going to have the same 23 from week to week. There's going to be three or four guys who will be in and out of the side for the first three or four weeks."

Holland confirmed Laumape would be playing a part in the campaign and his role wouldn't reduce.

"We've always had a plan in place to make sure we get some new guys some game time."

Ben and Owen Franks. Photo: Getty Images
Ben and Owen Franks. Photo: Getty Images
The Hurricanes are set to have more contract talks with All Blacks before the season is over, with Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea off contract at the end of the campaign.

Savea's contract negotiations are unlikely to be straightforward. Last year he expressed a desire to play rugby league, saying he wanted to test himself with a new challenge and that a change of codes would open the door for him to represent Samoa.

Given that desire to connect with his family heritage, Moana Pasifika's introduction from next season may also appeal, and there will be no shortage of offshore suitors for the world-class loose forward.

The same goes for Barrett.

"Jordie has been a star for us the last few years," Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee told the Herald last month. "We're talking to him and his manager and that will carry on. We're aware these guys are in demand.

"We're really confident they are happy at the Hurricanes, they love the team, but we fully appreciate they have choices so we don't take them for granted.

"We just need to do our best and keep in regular dialogue with them but be respectful most of those guys have full time commitments now with matches so you have to pick your moments."

The Blues flew Barrett to Auckland last year in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to lure him to play alongside his older brother, but having only signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes, Lee is preparing for another attempted raid.

"I would assume so. The Blues have shown their interest before and I don't see why that would've changed. They've got Stephen Perofeta and others who have played fullback. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is coming in, you just don't know what's on their agenda, but I'd be surprised if they didn't."

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