Hurricanes confirm signing of former All Blacks prop Owen Franks
Currently with the Northampton Saints in England, Franks will return to New Zealand for the first time since 2019 to compete in the new-look Super Rugby competition for the Wellington-based franchise in 2022 and 2023.
A veteran of 108 tests and a key member of the 2011 and 2015 World Cup-winning All Blacks teams, the 33-year-old tighthead prop’s international career was seemingly cut short when he was a surprisingly excluded from the 2019 World Cup squad.
His return to New Zealand could spark a return to the test arena, though, as he joins a youthful Hurricanes forward pack that has historically lacked a steely tight five.
The acquisition of Franks, considered one of the best props of all-time who is renowned for his scrummaging and powerful defending, could go some way to resolving that issue.
Having played 150 times for the Crusaders between 2009 and 2019, Franks also brings with him three Super Rugby titles worth of experience to Sky Stadium, something Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland is excited about.
“His record speaks for itself and what he has been able to achieve is a measure of his quality and professionalism,” Holland said in a statement.
“Owen’s experience will be invaluable, not just for the younger players in our squad but our group as a whole.”
Franks added he is looking forward to a Kiwi homecoming after being forced to endure a tumultuous period in the United Kingdom as a result of COVID-19.
“I’m excited to be getting back into Super Rugby next year with the Hurricanes after time in the UK,” Franks, who has played 24 times for Northampton, said.
“My family and I are looking forward to a new challenge and being back in New Zealand and closer to friends and family is also important. I am very motivated to play at the highest level again and I am looking forward to working with the Hurricanes players and coaching teams and pushing for success in 2022 and 2023.”
By moving to the New Zealand capital, Franks follows in the footsteps of his older brother Ben, a former Hurricanes prop who also played for the Crusaders, Saints and All Blacks.
Last week Caleb Clarke announced his plans to link up with the All Blacks Sevens squad in the hopes of chasing gold at the re-scheduled Tokyo Olympics this July.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 14, 2021
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson said earlier this week that while he was keen to have Franks back at the Christchurch-based club, they didn’t have the space on their roster to facilitate such a move.
“If we had space and it had worked out, we’d have loved to have Owie back. He’s been great to us for a long period of time, but it’s a professional sport and the timing didn’t quite work,” Robertson said.
“We went through the process. They have to obviously come home first. But with our contracting, he still had a year on his contract with Northampton so we weren’t expecting it at all and we had a full roster.
“It’s a professional game, and that’s where the opportunity was. We appreciate that he’s made that decision and it’s best for him and his family.”
Franks will compete with six-test All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax for a place in the Hurricanes’ No 3 jersey over the next two seasons and is expected to act as a mentor for rising stars such as Xavier Numia and Alex Fidow.
He will also join a front row that will be led by his former All Blacks teammate Dane Coles, who last month signed a contract extension to keep him at the Hurricanes for the next two years.
The arrival of Franks and Bird, as well as the recently-confirmed retention of All Blacks star TJ Perenara, should help alleviate the loss of barnstorming midfielder Ngani Laumape, who will leave the Hurricanes to join Top 14 side Stade Francais in July.
Capping off a busy period of player movements, the Hurricanes also announced on Thursday that highly-promising first-five Aidan Morgan, who was recently named in the New Zealand U20 squad, has signed a three-year deal with the franchise.
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