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Bolters Unlikely In Super Squads

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Fuseworks Media
Bolters Unlikely In Super Squads

By Daniel Gilhooly of NZPA

Wellington, Nov 10 NZPA - Don't expect dramatic announcements when the five New Zealand Super 14 rugby squads for 2010 are unveiled tomorrow.

Most significant player movement has already been signposted and a relatively small exodus of players overseas, compared to recent seasons, means the core of the 2009 squads will stay the same.

The coaching staff from each of the franchises gathered in Wellington today for the draft negotiation session which finalises their 28-man squads.

Each franchise yesterday submitted to the New Zealand Rugby Union those players they want to protect from the draft. That could be up to 24 players, a figure likely to be met by strong franchises such as the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs, who all reached this year's semifinals.

The remainder of the squads are finalised today, with the horse trading details usually kept private behind NZRU headquarters doors.

Much draft activity is carried out privately prior to today.

The biggest draft transfer is likely to involve Crusaders first five-eighth Stephen Brett, whose pending shift to the Blues has been widely forecast.

Other significant moves have already been made through official channels, with 11 players having transferred to new provincial unions last month to allow them to be included among initial franchise selections.

The most notable of those are new All Blacks winger Zac Guildford shifting from Hurricanes to Crusaders territory, the same path followed by rising centre Robert Fruean.

Halfback Alby Mathewson has also left the Hurricanes, signing for the Blues and forming a likely inside back combination with Brett and returning second five-eighth Luke McAlister which the underperforming northern franchise will hope can spark a revival.

Changes will be minimal at the Chiefs, who lost heavily in this year's final to South Africa's Bulls.

Coach Ian Foster will look for a second halfback to replace Europe-bound Toby Morland, with Waikato's Tawera Kerr-Barlow a strong prospect.

Guildford and Fruean boost Todd Blackadder's Crusaders backline in place of Leon MacDonald and Casey Laulala, while the return of first five-eighth maestro Daniel Carter following his 2009 sabbatical to France has squeezed Brett north.

Former All Blacks lock Chris Jack is also back and will help alleviate the departure of Ross Filipo to France and flanker Michael Paterson to the Hurricanes.

Paterson and the likely return of lock Ross Kennedy will add height to the Hurricanes pack as coach Colin Cooper surveys riches in several positions ahead of his final season in charge.

Cooper is sure to plump for exciting Manawatu first five-eighth Aaron Cruden.

The Blues should adopt a new style , with last year's playmaking options -- Jimmy Gopperth, Tasesa Lavea and Michael Hobbs -- all departing.

They retain their All Blacks tight five core but locating quality loose forwards remains a problem for coach Pat Lam.

As with last year, Highlanders coach Glenn Moore will be a busy man at the draft table although the Air NZ Cup form of Southland will have been heartening.

Loan-back deals should see the return of most of last year's draft players, including a host of Hawke's Bay performers -- fullback Israel Dagg, centre Jason Shoemark, first five-eighth Matt Berquist, No 8 George Naoupu and prop Clint Newland, along with Taranaki midfielder Jayden Hayward.

 

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