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Highlanders sign young halfback to accompany Aaron Smith and Folau Fakatava

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have confirmed the signing of young halfback James Arscott, who joins the Super Rugby Pacific outfit on a two-year deal.

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After making his debut for the Dunedin-based franchise against the Waratahs during last year’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Arscott has been signed on a full-time basis as a replacement for departing veteran Kayne Hammington.

Having made 54 appearances for the Highlanders since shifting south from the Chiefs in 2016, Hammington has left to sign with a club in Japan.

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That has paved the way for Arscott to join the Highlanders as an understudy to All Blacks pair Aaron Smith and Folau Fakatava.

A Timaru local who relocated to Dunedin to play for Otago Boys’ High School in 2017, Arscott made the New Zealand Barbarians Schools team the following year and was signed by Otago on a development contract.

Since then, the 21-year-old has become a regular feature for Otago in the NPC, making his provincial debut in 2019 before making a total of 17 appearances in the domestic competition.

Formerly a member of the Highlanders High Performance Programme, Arscott described it as a dream come true to have signed for the team he has supported since he was a youngster.

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“For me becoming a Highlander has been a dream of mine since I was four years old and pulled on my first pair of boots for Timaru Celtic,” Arscott said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Being an ex-Otago Boys High pupil, coming through the Otago Academy, Highlanders High Performance system and playing for my club Green Island gives me a deep appreciation for this region and the people in it. It really does mean everything to me.”

Newly-appointed Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody lauded Arscott as a player with significant potential who has a bright future ahead of him.

“Jimmy has worked extremely hard for this opportunity and it’s great to see another young local player come through the system,” Dermody said.

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“Aside from his talent, what singles Jimmy out, is his genuine passion for our team, club, and region. He’s replacing the ultimate team man in Kayne Hammington, and I believe Jimmy can go on to make a big contribution to our club.”

The acquisition of Arscott represents the third signing made by Dermody since his appointment as Highlanders head coach last week.

In the days after it was announced that Dermody would succeed his former boss Tony Brown, the Highlanders announced the signings of former Hurricanes and Chiefs wing Jonah Lowe and promising Dutch lock Fabian Holland on three-year deals.

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