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Highlanders confirm first signing following mass All Blacks exodus

By Alex McLeod
Scott Gregory. (Photo by Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images)

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The Highlanders have confirmed their first new signing of the Super Rugby off-season, securing the services of Northland, All Blacks Sevens and New Zealand U20 speedster Scott Gregory.

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The 20-year-old outside back has signed a two-year deal with the Dunedin franchise, which has been hit hard by the post-World Cup exodus.

All Blacks Ben Smith (Pau), Waisake Naholo (London Irish), Liam Squire (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes), Jackson Hemopo (Mitsubishi DynaBoars), Luke Whitelock (Pau), Elliot Dixon (Ricoh Black Rams) and Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes) are among 12 key players who are set to leave the club at the end of the year.

Super Rugby veterans Marty Banks (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes), Matt Faddes (Ulster), Tevita Li (Suntory Sungoliath), Tom Franklin and Richard Buckman (both Kobelco Steelers) are also heading offshore next year.

With Smith, Naholo, Faddes, Li and Buckman all members of the squad’s outside backs, Gregory’s signature is a valuable one for the 2015 Super Rugby champions.

He was named in the New Zealand side for the U20 World Championship in France last year, and then again in Argentina this year, while also playing a key role for the All Blacks Sevens throughout the 2018-19 World Sevens Series.

Gregory debuted for Northland in their 2018 Mitre 10 Cup opener against North Harbour, and has been a prominent member of the Taniwha ever since.

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A former New Zealand age grade track and field champion, Gregory should bring some much-needed pace and strength on the wing under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium over the next two seasons.

He joins Canterbury star Josh McKay as the Highlanders’ only other outside back confirmed for next year’s campaign.

Gregory’s signing is expected to be the first of many announced by the Highlanders over the coming weeks, with fellow All Blacks Sevens and Otago wing Jona Nareki rumoured to be named as one of the club’s new recruits.

The Highlanders finished the 2019 Super Rugby season as beaten quarter-finalists after they were bundled out of the competition by the Crusaders in a 38-14 defeat in the first round of the play-offs in Christchurch.

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