NZ Super Rugby squads announced

Aaron Cruden and Andrew Horrell. Photo / Getty Images.
Aaron Cruden and Andrew Horrell. Photo / Getty Images.

The puzzle of New Zealand's Super Rugby squads for the 2014 season was completed this morning.

All five Kiwi franchises announced their full 32-man squads and wider training group members.

Here is the breakdown.

Chiefs:

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has announced 13 new recruits in his squad for the 2014 Super Rugby competition.

The back-to-back champions have included seven players who will be involved in Super Rugby for the first time after earning selection from the ITM Cup.

The squad contains five current All Blacks, five Maori All Blacks and 26 players who have previously been involved in winning a Super Rugby title, a mix Rennie thought to be an effective blend of experienced proven performers and new talent.

"We are really happy,'' he said. "We have a solid core of players who have been a big part of our success over the past two years and added both youth and experience to the mix.

"It's a very tough competition, so we're rapt we've been able to assemble a group of men high on character and work ethic.''

The majority of the squad will assemble on November 28 before being joined by the Maori All Blacks in December and the All Blacks in late January.

In a new initiative, the Chiefs are progressing with the possibility of playing Toulon in France as part of their preseason campaign, but there are still a few boxes to tick.

The Chiefs will kick off their Super rugby season against the Crusaders on February 21 in Christchurch and will play their first home game against the Highlanders in Hamilton March 1.

Squad:
Ben Afeaki, Bundee Aki, Gareth Anscombe, Sam Cane, Nick Crosswell, Aaron Cruden, Hikawera Elliot, Ross Filipo, Mike Fitzgerald, Robbie Fruean, Josh Hohneck, Andrew Horrell, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tanerau Latimer, James Lowe, Jamie Mackintosh, Pauliasi Manu, Rhys Marshall, Tom Marshall, Liam Messam, Mils Muliaina, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Augustine Pulu, Brodie Retallick, Robbie Robinson, Mahonri Schwalger, Liam Squire, Matthew Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Kane Thompson, Asaeli Tikoirotuma

Blues:

The Blues boast 11 past or present All Blacks in their squad for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

They've been bolstered by the returns of Ma Nonu, Tony Woodcock and the returning Jerome Kaino from Japan.

They've also secured the well-documented signing of league convert Benji Marshall.

Coach Sir John Kirwan says Kaino's inclusion is particularly valued.

He says they'll get a little more x-factor with Kaino especially in his physicality. Luke Braid will captain the Blues.

Squad:
Tom McCartney, Keven Mealamu, James Parsons, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tony Woodcock,Tom Donnelly, Liaki Moli, Culum Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kane Barrett, Luke Braid, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Brendon O'Connor, Peter Saili, Jamison Gibson-Park, Bryn Hall, Piri Weepu, Baden Kerr, Chris Noakes, Pita Ahki, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Jackson Willison, Frank Halai, Benji Marshall, George Moala, Charles Piutau, Lolagi Visinia, Joe Edwards, Simon Hickey, Tevita Li, Tom Murday, Albert Nikoro

Hurricanes:

Eight new faces have been named in the Hurricanes' Super Rugby squad for 2014, including four new additions to the team's wider training group.

The Hurricanes have 26 players returning from the 2013 season, with the addition of newcomers Mark Abbott, Marty Banks, Cardiff Vaega and Hadleigh Parkes.

Prop John Schwalger also makes a return to Super Rugby after a successful ITM Cup campaign with the Wellington Lions, while former wider training group member Ash Dixon steps into the 32-man squad.

Manawatu's Callum Gibbons features in the wider training group for a second year and he is joined by teammates Chris Eves and Nehe Milner-Skudder. Tasman halfback Billy Guyton has also been included in the wider squad, along with Wellington loose forward Adam Hill.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said he was happy with what his squad offered across the board, especially after watching the way many of them had performed during the ITM Cup season.

"Many of the players we have this year have shown a great deal of maturity throughout the ITM Cup,'' he said. ``I also think the youth we had in our team three years ago have now gained a lot of experience as both international and Super Rugby players.

"I'm confident that group of players will step up this season.''

Within their 2014 line-up, the Hurricanes have nine current All Blacks, four Maori All Blacks, and three Manu Samoa players. Those with international commitments will join the squad in January with the remainder of the squad beginning preseason duties on November 28.

Squad:
Mark Abbott, James Broadhurst, Dane Coles, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks, Reggie Goodes, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Motu Matu'u, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea, John Schwalger, Brad Shields, Eric Sione, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Victor Vito
Beauden Barrett, Marty Banks, Tim Bateman, Cory Jane, Alapati Leiua, James Marshall, Hadleigh Parkes, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Chris Smylie, Andre Taylor, Cardiff Vaega

Crusaders:

A returning All Black and a hulking Fijian winger are two of the more noteworthy names in the Crusaders' squad for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

Coach Todd Blackadder has included five new members in his squad, with 27 players returning for last season's beaten semifinalists to form a hugely experienced core.

One of the five new faces in the squad will be very familiar for Crusaders fans. Colin Slade played for the franchise in 2009 and 2010 but shifted to the Highlanders in 2011 in order to gain more playing time at first five eighth.

Slade already has 26 Crusaders caps under his belt, while playing for Canterbury since 2008, and Blackadder said it was fantastic to welcome him back into the fold.

"The experience and talent that Colin Slade adds to this group is immense,'' he said. "He'll be a crucial member of the team, especially at first five while Dan Carter is on extended leave, but he has the advantage of being able to play virtually anywhere in the back line.''

Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo is set to make an impact on the Crusaders' back line in 2014 after playing for NEC Green Rockets in the Japan Top League most recently.

Blackadder said Nadolo, who spent one season with the Crusaders in 2009, is set to be one of the most exciting players in the competition.

"At 1.95m and nearly 130kg, he is an absolute hulk of a man, yet he can fly down the field like you wouldn't believe for a man that size,'' Blackadder said. ``Comparisons have been drawn with Jonah Lomu, and we can't wait to work with him and unleash him in this competition.''

Two other players with Super Rugby experience - Tim Perry, who was at the Blues last season, and Rey Lee-Lo, most recently at the Hurricanes - will provide an added boost, while Mitchell Drummond is the other new player and the youngest member of the squad.

Squad:
Dominic Bird, Tyler Bleyendaal, Daniel Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Mitchell Drummond, Andy Ellis, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Zac Guildford, Willi Heinz, Nepo Laulala, Rey Lee-Lo, Richie McCaw, Johnny McNicholl, Joe Moody, Nemani Nadolo, Tim Perry, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Colin Slade, Jordan Taufua, Codie Taylor, Tom Taylor, Matt Todd, Jimmy Tupou, Adam Whitelock, George Whitelock, Luke Whitelock, Sam Whitelock

Highlanders:

The Highlanders have announced Ben Smith and Nasi Manu will lead the team as co-captains in the 2014 Super Rugby competition.

The southerners' named their squad for the new season today, which sees 23 players returning from the 2013 season along with a host of new names.

Kurt Baker returns to the Highlanders after a season with the Crusaders, and he is joined in the backs by Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland), Patrick Osborne (Canterbury), Willie Ripia (Bay of Plenty), and Winston Stanley (Force).

In the forwards, Tasman captain Shane Christie joins the southern franchise, alongside Argentina international Matias Diaz, Kane Hames (Bay of Plenty) Highlanders coach, Jamie Joseph said his squad was well balanced and had depth across the board.

"We're very pleased with the quality of players in our squad of 37 for next season,'' he said. ``We have a core group of players returning from 2013, which allows continuity, but to have 14 new faces brings new ideas and enthusiasm''

Joseph also added that selecting Smith and Manu was reflective of the approach the team would be taking to the 2014 Super Rugby season.

"As a coaching group, we've selected two players we know will lead from the front and who have the experience and respect of the whole squad. The role of captain in a Super Rugby team is vital to the success of the team, and sharing the workload between two complementary players was a big part of our decision''

Ben Smith has played 72 games for the Highlanders since making his Super Rugby debut in 2009 against the Brumbies. The utility has also played 18 tests for the All Blacks and has recently been selected to travel with the team to the United Kingdom for the end of year tour.

Nasi Manu has played 49 Super Rugby games after making his debut in 2008 for the Crusaders. Manu joined the Highlanders in 2010 and has played 33 games for the franchise.

The Highlanders begin their season with a home match against the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium on February 22.

Squad:
Josh Bekhuis, Shane Christie, Liam Coltman, Matias Diaz, Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans, Ma'afu Fia, Tom Franklin, Kane Hames, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, TJ Ioane, Chris King, Nasi Manu, Brayden Mitchell, Brad Thorn, Joe Wheeler. Kurt Baker, Phil Burleigh, Jason Emery, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Osborne, Hayden Parker, Buxton Popoalii, Willie Ripia, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Winston Stanley, Fumiaki Tanaka, Shaun Treeby, Frae Wilson.

- APNZ

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