Returning star power, some familiar faces from the past join a cast of exciting young rookies in New Zealand's five 2022 Super Rugby Pacific squads announced today.
All 12 competing squads for the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific season were confirmed today including Australia's five teams and new entrants Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua.
Each of New Zealand’s five Super Rugby Pacific squads have been bolstered by notable players who were plying their trade on foreign shores in 2021 including Beauden Barrett (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), TJ Perenara and Dominic Bird (Hurricanes), Pablo Matera (Crusaders) and Marty Banks and Rhys Marshall (Highlanders).
There has also been some movement on the transfer market with 12 players making a move between New Zealand's five clubs, and a further nine players moving to a newly minted Moana Pasifika squad featuring Wallabies veterans Sekope Kepu and Christian Lealifano.
Among New Zealand Rugby’s five Super Rugby Pacific squads there are 31 ‘rookies’, defined as those players who have signed their first full-time Super Rugby contracts in 2022, only slightly up on the 26 selected in 2021.
There is a total of 190 NZR contracted players across the Blues, Gallagher Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes. A total of 38 players have been contracted by Moana Pasifika.
The official New Zealand Rugby (NZR) rookies’ class of 2022 is:
Highlanders (6): Saula Ma’u, Max Hicks, Sam Caird, Sean Withy, Mosese Dawai, Josh Timu
Crusaders (5): Shilo Klein, Finlay Brewis, Zach Gallagher, Dominic Gardiner, Corey Kellow
Chiefs (4): Tyrone Thompson, Samipeni Finau, Cortez Ratima, Gideon Wrampling
Hurricanes (9): James O’Reilly, Pasilio Tosi, Justin Sangster, Tyler Laubscher, Caleb Delany, TK Howden, Cam Roigard, Aidan Morgan, Josh Moorby
Blues (7): Jordan Lay, Anton Segner, Cameron Suafua, Adrian Choat, Taufa Funaki, Corey Evans, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Among the ‘rookies’, defined as players who have earned a full Super Rugby contract for the first time is new Blues signing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the former New Zealand Warriors star providing an exciting boost to his new club’s midfield stocks.
Wellington hooker James O’Reilly’s perseverance and determination earns his first full Super Rugby contract with the Hurricanes five years after making his debut for the club.
Players returning to Super Rugby after a lengthy absence include Highlanders hooker Rhys Marshall who last played Super Rugby (for the Chiefs) in 2016 before heading to Ireland where he played six seasons for the famous Munster club.
First-five Beauden Barrett (Blues), lock Retallick (Chiefs) and halfback Perenara (Hurricanes) return from stints in Japan, while lock Bird is back after five years in France and prop Owen Franks from England but in doubt for 2022 due to an Achilles injury suffered in training.
There are 15 sets of brothers across the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Highlanders, Crusaders and Moana Pasifika squads, but only three sets play for the same team – Akira and Rieko Ioane (Blues), Julian and Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) and Bryn and Gareth Evans (Highlanders).
The other brothers are Beauden (Blues) Jordie (Hurricanes) and Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Peter and Thomas Umaga-Jensen (Hurricanes & Highlanders), Ofa and Isi Tuungafasi (Blues & Moana Pasifika), Jack and Josh Goodhue (Crusaders & Blues), Ngatungane Punivai and Isaiah Punivai (Highlanders & Crusaders), Bailyn and Zarn Sullivan (Hurricanes & Blues), Jackson and Connor Garden-Bachop (Hurricanes & Highlanders), Sione and Tevita Mafileo (Chiefs & Hurricanes), Tima and Leicester Fainga’anuku (Moana Pasifika & Crusaders), Lotu and Fine Inisi (Moana Pasifika), William and David Havili (Moana Pasifika & Crusaders) and Daniel & Anton Leinert-Brown (Highlanders & Chiefs).
New Zealand's five 2022 Super Rugby Pacific squads are listed below:
Unavailable due to injury: James Lay
Gains: Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors); Beauden Barrett (Japan); Jordan Lay (Auckland); Riccitelli (Hurricanes); Romano (Crusaders); Tucker (Brumbies); Funaki (Auckland); Corey Evans (Auckland); Tua (
On the move: Blake Gibson (Hurricanes); Emoni Narawa (
Gains: Ioane (Highlanders); Retallick (Japan); Narawa (Blues);
On the move: Damian McKenzie (Japan); Lachlan Boshier (Japan); Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (
Gains: Bird (France); Gibson (Blues); Walden (Taranaki); Sullivan (Chiefs); Tosi (Bay of Plenty); Sangster (Bay of Plenty); Laubscher (Manawatu); Morgan (Wellington); Roigard (
On the move: Ngani Laumape (France); Vince Aso (Japan); Vaea Fifita (England), Ricky Riccitelli (Blues); Gareth Evans (Highlanders); Simon Hickey (Crusaders); Lolagi Visinia (
Gains: Matera (Argentina); Tahuriorangi (
On the move: Isileli Tuungafasi (Moana Pasifika); Andrew Makalio (Highlanders); Michael Alaalatoa (Ireland);
Gains: Gareth Evans (Hurricanes); Makalio (Crusaders); Banks (Southland); Dawai (
On the move: Josh Ioane (Chiefs); Ash Dixon (Japan); Siate Tokolahi (France);
The Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific squad is: