Rugby: Nehe Milner-Skudder to make return

By Campbell Burnes

Nehe Milner-Skudder. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nehe Milner-Skudder. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The find of the 2015 rugby season is back.

Nehe Milner-Skudder is fully fit after a long rehab from a shoulder injury robbed him of most of 2016. Well into contact work, he will be ready to play the Hurricanes' first pre-season match against the Blues on February 4 in Auckland, as well as a starter for the inaugural Brisbane 10s a week later.

The 26-year-old has eight tests to his name, and will be primed for many more after also today re-signing with New Zealand Rugby and the Hurricanes, not to mention his beloved Manawatu, until the end of 2019.

"I love it here. It was pretty much a no-brainer... I love the organisation and Manawatu. To hang around in New Zealand and have another opportunity to put on the black jersey is huge," says the man with the fast feet. Getting back on the field is his primary goal, but the Lions in June and July is a carrot. He can recall the 2005 tour when his province copped a 109-6 shellacking from the tourists.

And after recent prominence was given to the fact that most of the front-line All Blacks will not be available for that 10s weekend, Milner-Skudder has no such qualms.

"There's been plenty of chat, but my situation is different from some of the other boys. I'm good to go and put my hand up for the 10s," he says.

"I'm pretty pumped for it, something new, having less players on the field, so that will be good for outside backs like me."

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd was more than happy to see Milner-Skudder recommit to the franchise until 2019.

"He was a signature we were really keen to get. At the end of the day, there wasn't too much discussion, so it was quite a simple process," says Boyd, adding that Milner-Skudder was almost fit for the tail-end of the 2016 season.

Boyd confirmed that both Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita, who played limited roles on the All Blacks' November tour, would be available for the 10s, as will Cory Jane, who was his usual frisky self when he bounded into Hurricanes' HQ on Monday after his Japan sojourn.

Boyd was toeing the party line when asked about the importance of the 10s, though he admitted that "all roads lead to Tokyo" and the Hurricanes' January 25 Super Rugby opener against the Sunwolves.

"You've got to accept that there's a bigger picture thing around promoting the game and I think potentially 10s is an exciting concept. My understanding is that most teams are going there to play seriously. We've got a pretty handy squad and we'll get around to 10s training at some stage," says Boyd, who himself has never coached this shortened form of the game.

- NZ Herald

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