Super squads reflects NZ depth
SQUADS ANNOUNCEMENT: The depth of New Zealand rugby will take centre stage in the 2017 Super Rugby competition as a total of 33 players will make their debut in the competition.
A total of 190 contracted players have been announced across the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders Super Rugby squads.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager of Rugby Neil Sorensen said the mix of new players coming through and experienced players staying highlighted the stability of New Zealand rugby.
"New Zealand teams dominated Super Rugby this year, so for 33 new players to force their way into already strong squads shows the exciting depth of talent the teams have to choose from.
"It's great that we have been able to retain most of the experienced players that made our Super Rugby teams so successful in 2016. Our squads are stable and will be strengthened by the talented crop of young players making their debut next year.
"Super Rugby is a recognised pathway into higher honours and offers new players a chance to put themselves forward for national selection. In total, there are eight players who played for the New Zealand Under-20 side this year, showing that New Zealand rugby continues to develop and promote outstanding young players and transition them through to the top tier of the game.
"The strong crop of young talent pushing through will be exciting to watch. The youngest player in the New Zealand Super Rugby teams is Rieko Ioane, who will turn 20 just after the season starts next year, who has already forced his way into the All Blacks squad.
"Next year's Super Rugby squads are a bit of a family affair with seven sets of brothers represented in the selections. The Barrett, Whitelock, McKenzie, Ioane, Savea and Lienert-Brown brothers and the Goodhue twins show that rugby really is a game for all the family to enjoy, literally.
"The 2017 season also sees some changes in the coaching teams with Tony Brown becoming head coach of the Highlanders and Scott Robertson taking the helm at the Crusaders. They both join the Blues' head coach Tana Umaga as former All Blacks who are showing their acumen as professional coaches.
"Dave Rennie will be looking for a solid last season with the Chiefs and no doubt Chris Boyd will be looking to back up their championship win," Sorensen said.
The season gets under way on Thursday 23 February in Melbourne when the Rebels will host the Blues. 2017 will see games held on a Thursday for the first time. The Highlanders will play the Chiefs on Friday 24 February. The Hurricanes will launch their title defense against the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday 25 February and the Crusaders will start their season against the Brumbies in Christchurch on the same day.
Super Rugby debutants will attend a one-day induction with New Zealand Rugby in late November.
All the squads
Forwards: Charlie Faumuina, Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Pauliasi Manu, Sam Prattley, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Hame Faiva, Matt Moulds, James Parsons, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Brandon Nansen, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tu'ipulotu, Jimmy Tupou, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Kara Pryor, Murphy Tarama.
Backs: Billy Guyton, Sam Nock, Augustine Pulu, Piers Francis, Ihaia West, Michael Collins, TJ Faiane, George Moala, Rene Ranger, Matt Vaega, Sonny Bill Williams, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, Melani Nanai, Declan O'Donnell, Stephen Perofeta, Jordan Trainor.
Forwards: Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Mitchell Graham, Kane Hames, Sosefo Kautai, Nepo Laulala, Atunaisa Moli, Hikawera Elliot, Nathan Harris, Liam Polwart, Michael Allardice, Dominic Bird, Brodie Retallick, James Tucker, Mitchell Brown, Lachlan Boshier, Sam Cane, Mitchell Karpik, Michael Leitch, Liam Messam, Tom Sanders, Taleni Seu.
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Finlay Christie, Brad Weber, Aaron Cruden, Stephen Donald, Damian McKenzie, Fa'ase'e (Johnny) Fa'auli, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Solomon Alaimalo, Glen Fisiiahi, James Lowe, Sam McNicol, Toni Pulu, Shaun Stevenson, Chase Tiatia.
Forwards: Michael Alaalatoa, Wyatt Crockett, Oliver Jager, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Andrew Makalio, Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Quinten Strange, Sam Whitelock, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Jed Brown, Mitchell Dunshea, Kieran Read, Pete Samu, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd.
Backs: Mitchell Drummond, Leon Fukofuka, Bryn Hall, Tim Bateman, Marty McKenzie, Richie Mo'unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Sean Wainui, George Bridge, Israel Dagg, Sione Fifita, Mitchell Hunt, Digby Ioane, Jone Macilai, Manasa Mataele.
Forwards: Siosiua Halanukonuka, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Craig Millar, Guy Millar, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Alex Ainley, Josh Dickson, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Joe Wheeler, Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans, James Lentjes, Dan Pryor, Liam Squire, Luke Whitelock.
Backs: Josh Renton, Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Hayden Parker, Fletcher Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Richard Buckman, Jason Emery, Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Patelesio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Li, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Ben Smith.
Forwards: Chris Eves, Reg Goodes, Mike Kainga, Ben May, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Loni Uhila, Leni Apisai, Dane Coles, Ricky Riccitelli, Mark Abott, James Broadhurst, Geoff Cridge, Michael Fatialofa, Sam Lousi, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Toa Halafihi, Reed Prinsep, Hugh Renton, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson.
Backs: Kylem O'Donnell, TJ Perenara, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Beauden Barrett, Otere Black, Pita Ahki, Jordie Barrett, Vince Aso, Wes Goosen, Ngani Laumape, Matt Proctor, Cory Jane, Ben Lam, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Peter Umaga-Jensen.