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2016 Canterbury Mitre 10 Cup squad announced

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Pupils at Riccarton Primary School had the honour today of naming the Canterbury squad to contest the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup. The squad-naming was held at the school to launch the Canterbury Rugby ‘Adopt a School’ programme, which sees players buddied up with schools in the region to help build connections with some of their youngest fans.

Canterbury Head Coach Scott Robertson said the 2016 squad includes thirteen new players, who each had something exciting to contribute to the team. Two of the new players have international test experience, while five have played for the New Zealand Under 20 team, one for the England Under 20s, and one for the Fiji Under 20 side.

"We have two new props in the mix, Oli Jager and Lee Roy Atalifo. Oli hails from Ireland but a stint in Christchurch to train at the Crusaders International High Performance Unit resulted in him being offered a place in the Canstaff Crusaders Academy. He has been impressing for New Brighton Rugby Club and deserves a place in our squad this season.

"Lee Roy brings international experience to the group, having played for Fiji in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He is a dynamic prop and a strong scrummager, so we can’t wait to see what he can add to the group," Robertson said.

"Nathan Vella is our new hooker, and he also brings some good experience to the team. Nathan had two seasons with Auckland in 2012 and 2013, and then headed to the UK where he has played for the London Welsh Club and the Bedford Blues. He was called into the Crusaders squad as injury cover part-way through this season and was an important part of the New Brighton Club this season.

"We have two new locks in Hamish Dalzell and David McDuling. Hamish has come through our Academy system and has also had two years in the New Zealand Under 20s. He is ready for this step up to provincial rugby.

"David has come over from Australia with Super Rugby experience under his belt, having played for the Reds in 2014 and 2015, and the Sharks this year. He will provide some important experience and depth at lock, particularly with Mitch Dunshea out for the season with a foot injury.

"Completing the line-up of new forwards is New Brighton captain and loose forward Billy Harmon. Billy is one of the great stories in this squad, having fought his way firstly into the Academy and then into this squad through solid and consistent performances for his club. He is a ferocious competitor who we know will make a succesful step up to this level," Robertson said.

"Seven of our uncapped players are in the backline, with most of those having come through our Academy system. Ere Enari is an exciting prospect at halfback. I have worked with him in the NZ Under 20s and he was also selected in the 2015 New Zealand Universities team.

"Our two new second fives, Inga Finau and Jordie Barrett, are also out of the Crusaders Academy and are two more players to watch this season. Jordie is the second Barrett in the squad, with older brother Scott back for a second season at lock.

"Another player making his way up the ranks in the Canterbury system is outside back George Bridge. He was the 2014 Canterbury Under 19 Player of the Year and a member of the 2015 New Zealand Under 20 squad.

"Our other new outside back, Poasa Waqanibau also comes out of the Academy and promises some real firepower out wide. Poasa was part of the Fijian Under 20 side at the 2014 Junior World Championship, and the Fijian Warriors team at the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup. Since moving to New Zealand he has represented Wanganui in the Heartland Championship before making his way into the Crusaders Academy.

"Fresh out of a season with the Crusaders is our new first-five, Ben Volavola. Ben is a quality player who also contributes some useful first-class and test experience to the squad, having played for Fiji in the Rugby World Cup.

"Last but not least is our new winger, Nathan Earle. Nathan was born in Hong Kong and has played for both Saracens and the Bedford Blues in the UK. We saw Nathan in action in the 2014 Junior World Cup here in New Zealand. He scored six tries in five games for the England Under 20 team, resulting in a nomination for the IRB Junior Player of the Year award. He has been carving it up for Sumner Rugby Club this season and we can’t wait to see what he can do for this team in 2016."

Canterbury’s Mitre 10 Cup season kicks off on Saturday 20 August against Auckland at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium. Tickets are available at or ph. 0800 224 224.

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