Rugby: ABs bolster Highlanders squad

Ma'a Nonu will play for the Highlanders, his third Super Rugby franchise. Photo / Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu will play for the Highlanders, his third Super Rugby franchise. Photo / Getty Images

The Highlanders squad has a number of new faces and this will make for a very exciting season in 2013.

The forward pack will be bolstered by the experience of Brad Thorn and Tony Woodcock who have played a combined total of 151 tests for the All Blacks and 205 Super Rugby matches. Also joining the big men up front are Liam Coltman, Brayden Mitchell, Joe Wheeler and Jake Paringatai.

Coltman has impressed in the ITM Cup for Otago at both hooker and prop, while Wheeler has had a strong season for Tasman. Mitchell has also impressed for Southland and has been a part of the Highlanders Wider Training Group over the last couple of seasons.

Paringatai had a taste of Super Rugby with the Crusaders in 2007, and is making his way back to Super Rugby with the Highlanders from Japan.

The back division includes marquee signing Ma'a Nonu from the Blues. Nonu will join a backline that features All Blacks Aaron Smith, Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade and Ben Smith. Other new faces include Jason Emery, Declan O'Donnell, Hayden Parker, Buxton Popoalii and Fumiaki Tanaka.

Emery is in his first season of ITM Cup for Manawatu and will bring plenty of enthusiasm to the Highlanders squad. O'Donnell joins the squad from the NZ Sevens Team and the Chiefs and has power and speed to burn.

There are three new-comers in the backs in Hayden Parker, Buxton Popoalii and Fumiaki Tanaka. All three have impressed during the ITM Cup where Otago made the Championship final against Counties.

The squad will be led by new captain Andrew Hore and Hosea Gear has been named vice-captain.

Highlanders 2013 Squad

Josh Bekhuis, Tim Boys, Liam Coltman, Elliot Dixon, Ma'afu Fia, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, Andrew Hore, Chris King, Jamie Mackintosh, Nasi Manu, Brayden Mitchell, Jake Paringatai, Brad Thorn (Legend), Joe Wheeler, Tony Woodcock.

Phil Burleigh, Tamati Ellison, Jason Emery, Hosea Gear, Ma'a Nonu, Declan O'Donnell, Kade Poki, Hayden Parker, Buxton Popoalii, Colin Slade, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Fumiaki Tanaka, Shaun Treeby.

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