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'He gives us options': Blues boss Leon MacDonald weighs in on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck positional debate

By Alex McLeod

Trending on RugbyPass

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Blues head coach Leon MacDonald has offered little insight into which position he might play new star recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck when he arrives at the franchise for next year’s Super Rugby campaign.

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The Blues confirmed on Saturday that they had locked in the 27-year-old NRL star on a two-year deal for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

MacDonald, along with Blues chief executive Andrew Hore, fronted media at the franchise’s headquarters in Epsom on Saturday morning to discuss the high-profile move.

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News of Tuivasa-Sheck’s transfer to the Auckland side had been highly speculated since the 2018 Dally M Medal winner confirmed last week that he will leave rugby league for rugby union at the end of the 2021 NRL season.

Just as hot a topic of discussion is which position the Warriors captain will play when he returns to the XV-man code he last played as a schoolboy for the Otahuhu College 1st XV, Blues U18 and New Zealand Schools sides in 2011.

A fullback in league, some have touted Tuivasa-Sheck as a wing in union, although some believe he could find a home for himself in the midfield.

However, MacDonald wouldn’t be drawn into speculating which position the 2013 NRL Premiership winner will play upon his return to union.

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“He gives us versatility; we know he played his schoolboy rugby in the midfield, he’s been playing his league in the outsides, so one of the attractions for us is he is a multi-skilled player and he gives us options,” MacDonald said.

“There’s no point speculating around positions. It’s a conversation we really need to sit down and have a good chat about.

“I think it’s a fair point around having the All Blacks coaches involved, and I think they will be involved. Fozzy [All Blacks coach Ian Foster] will have his opinion as well and to be aligned with the top is important.

“I’m looking forward to that day when we can sit around the table and thrash that out. It’ll come around soon enough.”

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Tuivasa-Sheck will be accompanied by a raft of established names and rising stars in the Blues backline next year, of which is headlined by All Blacks trio Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Caleb Clarke.

Promising youngsters such as Zarn Sullivan, AJ Lam and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens are also likely to challenge 20-test Kiwi for a place in the Blues’ starting lineup.

Tuivasa-Sheck’s move to union has also seen him ink a deal with provincial side Auckland, with there being the possibility that he may run out in the Mitre 10 Cup as early as this year.

This year’s Mitre 10 Cup kicks off on September 11 and runs through until November 27. The NRL grand final is scheduled for October 3, giving Tuivasa-Sheck plenty of time to ease himself back into union prior to getting underway with the Blues.

In doing so, he would forfeit the chance to play for the Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom between October and November.

Regardless of his intentions, MacDonald gave few hints about whether union fans will get to see Tuivasa-Sheck in the Mitre 10 Cup later on in the year.

“There’s no doubt that’s an opportunity for him,” MacDonald said of Tuivasa-Sheck playing for Auckland in eight-to-nine months’ time.

“What we are clear on is he has a campaign he needs to finish, and we have a campaign that we have to focus on. As that goes through a course and as it unfolds, then there will be discussions about what is the best pathway forward for his development.”

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'He gives us options': Blues boss Leon MacDonald weighs in on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck positional debate

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