Steelform Wanganui prop Gabriel Hakaraia is flying out on Tuesday to spend his summer offseason with the Northwich Rugby Club in England.

The 23-year-old, who has played 24 first class games for Wanganui, had planned to link up with the Cheshire-based club in North West England straight after the conclusion of the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship campaign.

However, that prospect was thrown up in the air when Hakaraia was hospitalised on the week of the Meads Cup final for surgery on an infection in his knee, which started from a minor injury.

Northwich were still keen to have the services of the front rower, and he received medical clearance earlier this week.


The club will provide him with employment and accommodation while he plays the English winter, flying into Manchester.

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Meanwhile, standout young Wanganui age grade and New Zealand representative forwards Jason Myers and Ben Strang have been included in the refreshed NZ Under 20's programme which will be held in the four major centres.

Previously, 50 players would be invited to a December training camp, but this year, over 100 players will gather in either Wellington, Hamilton, Auckland or Christchurch with various coaching staff.

New Zealand U20 head coach Craig Philpott said changes to World Rugby's Under 20 Championship dates to align with the international window have allowed a re-think of the age group programme.

Myers and Strang will attend the Wellington camp.

The flanker Myers captained the NZ Heartland XV at the Jock Hobbs National Under 19 tournament in Taupo, after previously playing for the Heartland Hurricanes Under 20's while later being named the Wanganui Under 20 player of the year at the Rugby Awards.

Jason Myers, right, with Wanganui Under 20 team mate Kohlt Coveny in their NZ Heartland XV jerseys.
Jason Myers, right, with Wanganui Under 20 team mate Kohlt Coveny in their NZ Heartland XV jerseys.

Hooker Strang had a standout season for the Whanganui Collegiate 1st XV, which saw him selected for the Hurricanes Under 18's to play the Blues, and then become the only player from a Heartland union in the NZ Schools team, who played Fiji Schools and Australia Under 18's in Hamilton.


Strang received the Allan E Jennings Achievement Award for Outstanding School Leaver at the Rugby Awards.

He is moving over to the Hawke's Bay next year to play for the Central club.

Ben Strang
Ben Strang