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Former Wales No. 10 Rhys Patchell explains ‘surprise’ move to Highlanders

By Finn Morton
Rhys Patchell of the Highlanders passes the ball during the Super Rugby Pacific Pre-Season match between Highlanders and Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium on February 10, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Before the opening round of the new Super Rugby Pacific season, former Wales playmaker Rhys Patchell opened up about his “surprise” move to join New Zealand club the Highlanders.

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Patchell, 30, was unveiled as one of the Highlanders’ marquee recruits for 2024 way back in July, with the Welshman committing to one year in Dunedin after being released by Scarlets.

The 22-cap Welsh international, who played at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, has joined a new-look Highlanders outfit that no longer includes veteran Aaron Smith.

With Smith leaving New Zealand Rugby at the end of last year, the experience that Patchell adds to the Highlanders is nothing short of invaluable.

Patchell, who played more than 160 first-class games during stints with Welsh clubs the Cardiff Blues and Scarlets, jumped at the opportunity to spread his wings by heading down south.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to me when I got a phone call saying, ‘do you fancy it?’ As soon as it came across the desk it was something I was pretty keen on, spins my wheels,” Patchell told RugbyPass ahead of the Highlanders’ season-opener last weekend.

“The opportunity to come down here, challenge myself in a completely different environment. I knew absolutely nobody at the club, wouldn’t know much about the crop of players that the Highlanders had coming through.

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“It’s one of those things that wouldn’t have come again. I’ve said to other people before, I didn’t want to get to the end of my career and have lots of great opportunities but didn’t make the most of any of them or hadn’t taken any of them.

“(I) felt this was something that I absolutely wanted to do and fortunately I have a very supportive fiancé who was on board with the idea as well.

Match Summary

0
Penalty Goals
3
5
Tries
2
5
Conversions
1
0
Drop Goals
0
86
Carries
117
2
Line Breaks
3
13
Turnovers Lost
15
6
Turnovers Won
4

“It was pretty quick from going, ‘what do you reckon’ to making a decision around it, and then a long wait after that to actually get your feet on the ground and get going.”

Patchell started in the No. 10 jersey in the Highlanders’ opening-round win over Moana Pasifika at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday. The Welshman was one of five starters to debut in the Highlanders’ colours.

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Moana Pasifika raced out to a six-nil lead after two penalties from William Havili, and the rest of the first half proved to be tense, close and nail-biting.

But three unanswered Highlanders tries in the second half saw the Dunedin-based club run away with a confidence-building 35-21 victory.

Patchell played 74 minutes before being replaced by rising star Cameron Millar.

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1 Comment
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Bryan 140 days ago

Played awesome looking forward to the whole highlanders team giving a top season

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