Rugby: Promising provincial lock destined for bigger things

By Daniel Richardson

Joel Everson is working towards a Super Rugby breakthrough. Photo / Getty Images
Joel Everson is working towards a Super Rugby breakthrough. Photo / Getty Images

Joel Everson should keep his phone on for the next couple of months. With most of New Zealand's Super Rugby franchises in need of at least one new lock, Everson shapes as a player in demand.

The towering Canterbury second-rower was a member of the Crusaders' wider training group this year but never got a sniff of the bench, as All Blacks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano ruled the lineouts.

The Crusaders also had the promising Dominic Bird and former international Tom Donnelly on their roster.

Everson logged a solid 40 minutes for Canterbury against the All Blacks in their practice match at the Hutt Recreation Ground in Lower Hutt on Friday night and held his own against Whitelock and Romano.

The 23-year-old has played 15 games for Canterbury since making his debut in 2011 and enjoyed a busy campaign last year due to Romano's elevation to the national side. Everson moved south to join the Canterbury set-up after he finished his schooling at Auckland's St Kentigern College.

"I came down and went straight into the academy and went through the grades there and never looked back," he said. "I'm happy down in this environment."

Bird, who suffered a pectoral injury in late May, turned down the advances of the Blues last year but Everson said he would think about a franchise switch.

"The phone is pretty cold at the moment, so hopefully this year I'll change that," the 2.04m lock said. "If the right call comes and there's an opportunity for some game time, I think I would take it. But right now, I just really want to focus on playing well in the ITM Cup and go from there. I don't want to look too far ahead; just focus on the job at hand."

With Bird likely to remain on the sidelines for a while yet and Romano and Whitelock on international duty, the door has swung open for Everson to have a big ITM Cup on his way to a full-time Super Rugby deal.

Meanwhile, there were no major injuries from the practice matches, although Francis Saili, Julian Savea and Steven Luatua will be monitored after limping off. The All Blacks eased past Canterbury 19-0 on Friday night but were given a sterner test by the Wellingtonians, who pushed the national side before Steve Hansen's men ran out 12-7 victors.

A shadow All Blacks XV played against Canterbury but a few bumps and bruises meant the side that played Wellington had a more makeshift look to it.

- APNZ

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