Caleb Clarke eyes return to action alongside Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Clarke has returned to New Zealand after travelling to the Tokyo Olympics as a non-travelling reserve for the All Blacks Sevens side that won silver in the Japanese capital.
Missing out on the main 12-man squad, the 22-year-old wing didn’t feature for the All Blacks Sevens in Tokyo but managed to play for Clark Laidlaw’s side in warm-up fixtures in Auckland and Townsville.
Since returning from Japan, Clarke has undergone his mandatory two-week managed isolation quarantine period and was ready to get back into action with Auckland in the NPC before New Zealand entered a level 4 lockdown on Tuesday.
Speaking to Stuff earlier this week, the five-test wing, who took test rugby by storm in his debut international campaign last year, said he has no plans of when he will return to the All Blacks squad.
However, he said he is focused on returning to action via the NPC, alongside Tuivasa-Sheck, Auckland’s high-profile recruit who is yet to make his professional rugby union debut after joining from the Warriors in the NRL.
“I will just be with Auckland, that is where my mindset is at the moment,’’ Clarke told Stuff.
“It is up to Fozzie [Foster]. It is in his and all the selectors’ hands, which I am happy with. I am not in any rush to be anywhere.
“I am just really looking forward to playing XVs rugby. I know I am just excited to get out and play, and it will be awesome to play with Roger as well.”
Together, Clarke and Tuivasa-Sheck would make a formidable wing pairing for Auckland, and the same could be said next year when they team up at the Blues in the revamped version of Super Rugby.
Both players were expected to feature for Auckland over the coming weeks, but with New Zealand in lockdown until at least Tuesday, it remains to be seen when they will both get to strut their stuff in the blue-and-white hoops.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 20, 2021
Play well for Auckland, and an All Blacks re-call could potentially be on the cards, as Foster is likely to take an enlarged squad with him on his end-of-year tour of the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.
That trip up north could come sooner than expected, though, as sources have told RugbyPass that SANZAAR are planning on staging the Rugby Championship in the United Kingdom and Europe following Covid-19 outbreaks in New Zealand and Australia.
For now, though, Clarke has been encouraged by Foster to put his test ambitions on hold as he looks to readjust himself from the sevens game back into XVs.
“Some of the conversations were to have a little break, which was quite strange given that we have just got out of quarantine, but it was more just around the mental side of around being able to see family and friends and to have a last little break-up of the sevens [squad] as well.’’
After the postponement of this weekend’s match against Bay of Plenty, Auckland’s next scheduled match is against Wellington at Sky Stadium next Sunday, although a possible lockdown extension could prolong the resumption of their season.
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