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Blues recall omitted youngster as one of five new signings

By Alex McLeod

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A day after confirming the retention of Zarn Sullivan and Bryce Heem, the Blues have announced the signings of five young stars for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.

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In doing so, the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman champions have confirmed the return of Northland midfielder Tamati Tua, who last played for the Auckland-based franchise in 2018 but has had his development hampered by injuries in recent years.

The 23-year-old is joined by 23-year-old loose forward Adrian Choat, who featured five times for the Blues this year as an injury replacement player, as one of the other new signings made by the Blues.

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The remaining three players – midfielder Corey Evans, halfback Taufa Funaki, and utility forward Cameron Suafoa – have all inked their first-ever Super Rugby deals by signing with the Blues.

That trio of youngsters, aged between 20 and 23, have all been involved in the franchise’s youth and development sides, with Evans having won Blues Development Player of the Year this season.

Funaki, a two-time New Zealand Schools representative, has been signed to replace Jonathan Ruru, who has been granted an early release from his deal with the Blues to join a club in France.

All five players are former New Zealand U20 representatives and will add youth and depth to a Blues side eager to win back-to-back pieces of silverware for the first time since 1997.

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“The school coaches, our provincial union academies and our Blues development programme under Shane King, continue to do a good job identifying and nurturing our talent,” Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said in a statement.

“Corey was outstanding in our development team and has a big future as a strong and intelligent midfield back.

“Taufa has real x-factor as a strong-running halfback who has fought back after much of the year off with injury, and Cameron is a big, raw-boned and aggressive young player who has a big presence with ball in hand and in defence.

“We were really pleased with Adrian when he came in to the team this year. He settled in well both on and off the field. He is a smart and skilful player who earned his start with us on merit.

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“We have kept an eye on Tamati for some time. He is an intelligent midfielder with excellent all-round skills and with continued physical development, he will be a real asset to us.”

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