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Chiefs starter Xavier Roe back stronger than ever after missing entire season

By Adam Julian
Xavier Roe of Chiefs passes the ball during the preseason match between Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and Chiefs at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on February 4, 2024 in Kumagaya, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

Chiefs halfback Xavier Roe spent the entire 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season recovering from a shoulder reconstruction on February 25.

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His All Blacks and Chiefs flatmate Quinn Tupaea nursed a busted knee following a cowardly attack by Wallabies lock Darcy Swain in Melbourne in 2022.

Roe and Tupaea have been good mates for a decade. They played together in the 2015 and 2016 Hamilton Boys’ High School First XV and then followed each other into the Waikato NPC team and the Chiefs for whom Roe has played 17 times.

“Quinn’s injury was different to mine but going through that tough time with him helped,” Roe told RugbyPass.

“My body feels awesome now. I’ve had no issues with the shoulder. I’ve put on muscle. I’ve had a strong pre-season.”

Tupaea’s gym work has been so determined he’s shattered Chiefs records. Shifting tin has never been a forte of Roe but he brings a vibrancy that could help the Chiefs go one better and take out the title in 2024. Every Stuff pundit has declared the Chiefs favourites.

“I’m not a betting man but I’m not backing anyone else,” Roe said.

“We’ve retained a lot of players and the same coach,” he warned.

“What do I bring? I like to back my instincts. That can be tougher at Super level where the gaps are smaller and the margin for error is higher. I’m not the biggest player so my job is to bring energy.”

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A stern test of the Chiefs favouritism happens on Friday night. The opening fixture of the season is a replay of last year’s decider against the Crusaders. The Chiefs beat every team in 2023 but came unstuck (20-25) at the last hurdle on June 23.

“Last year isn’t discussed in team meetings but the players do mention it between each other. We don’t need any motivation for the Crusaders. It’s a great rivalry and you know it will be a cracker,” Roe said.

“The Crusaders are very good at set pieces and they love a maul. We have to be disciplined, physical, and make sure they don’t camp inside our 22.”

Roe will be hoping Cortez Ratima doesn’t camp in the Chiefs nine jersey this season. Ratima featured in all 17 games for the Chiefs last year growing in stature as a back up to Chiefs centurion and All Black Brad Weber. Two years younger than Roe, Ratima is another product of the fabled Hamilton Boys’ First XV.

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“I trained harder in the Hamilton Boys First XV than I do at Chiefs. The thing about Ham Boys is you know if you’re not pulling your weight, someone else is. The Chiefs are the same but more mature. That really competitive drive is constant,” Roe said.

“Cortez is an awesome player. I have massive respect for him. He’s bigger than me and more combative. I think we make each other better.”

Born in Hamilton but raised in Pauanui from the age of two, Roe started in the game aged four at the Tairua club, and went on to play Roller Mills for Thames Valley. His parents owned a surf shop and Roe is a keen skater.

Roe was in the Waikato Under 19’s who won the Jock Hobbs National Memorial tournament in 2017. He cracked the New Zealand Under 20s a year later. A brief spell in Taranaki followed. He struggled with a foot injury.

Waikato have been inconsistent since Roe debuted in 2020. They’ve only won half of the 36 games in which he’s featured. However, his best is exceptional. In 2020 Roe memorably scored a try and outplayed All Black TJ Perenara in a 53-28 win over Wellington. In 2021 Roe helped the Mooloos win the NPC Premiership in their centenary season. Last season Waikato was largely off the pace but Roe scored three tries in a 27-12 slaying of Auckland.

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