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'I haven't rung anyone as quick as that before': Latest All Black Newell on his surprise call

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The All Blacks revealed that uncapped Crusaders youngster Fletcher Newell will join the national squad for their upcoming tour to South Africa after an injury to starting tighthead prop Ofa Tuungafasi.

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Tuungafasi’s neck injury furthered an issue up front for the All Blacks, as their propping stocks have taken a hit with the season-ending injury to Joe Moody and the departure of Karl Tu’inukuafe already taking a toll.

Suspended prop Angus Ta’avao, having missed the deciding test against Ireland, has another week remaining to sit out after his three-week ban was reduced to two weeks.

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Highlanders prop Ethan de Groot was recalled to the squad for the Rugby Championship when it was announced last week, and now Fletcher Newell will join the squad on Friday before they fly out to South Africa.

The call up surprised the 22-year-old Newell, who revealed he missed the original phone call to hear of his selection.

“I missed a call from the All Blacks manager, he text me and said “hey it is the All Blacks manager here, give me a buzz”. I haven’t rung anyone as quick as that before,” Newell explained.

“It is pretty surreal when he gave me the news, it’s just an awesome moment. I really can’t put any words together at the moment.”

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Newell’s surprise call up has changed this week’s plans drastically, instead of heading to Oamaru for a pre-season clash against Otago he will link with the All Blacks squad to fly out to South Africa for the first time.

Although there will be plenty of familiar faces on the plane with Newell, with many Crusaders teammates in the team along with his Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan who has joined the staff as an assistant coach.

“Tomorrow I’ll train with Canterbury, I’m looking forward to it to help the boys build for a pre-season game against Otago this week,” he said.

“Then on Friday, heading off [to South Africa].

“There is a number of Crusader All Blacks and a lot of leaders in that environment. I’m excited to connect with them.

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“It is quite daunting but I can’t wait to get in there and learn from everyone. There are some really quality players in New Zealand, it’s going to be a great opportunity to learn.

“Me and Jason have a great relationship that we have built throughout the years, I’m really excited to get in there and continue to learn from him,” he said.

“He’s been a massive contributor to my growth and I can’t wait to keeping learning from him.”

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The young Crusaders front rower featured in four Super Rugby games off the bench last year, but it was his barnstorming game against the Highlanders in a 17-14 win that caught the attention of the rugby public.

He scored a well earned try in the first half after hitting a gap showing off unique footwork. His big frame was a handful to deal with and he powered the Crusaders forward with incredibly strong carrying.

On Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown, former All Black No 8 Stephen Bates was prepared to jump the gun and project the young prop as a future All Black candidate, which has now come into fruition.

“This is a guy that many people wouldn’t know his name,” host Kirstie Stanway explained of Newell, “he was a rock on the weekend.”

“A couple of years ago, he was the young player of the year,” Bates said of the Crusaders prop.

“He’s been around, the Crusaders and Canterbury have obviously known about him. We’ve always known he’s a big lump of a lad, I’d say he’s 130 plus I reckon, a big young man.”

“As we look forward, and I’m getting way too carried away here, if we look forward to the All Blacks, we need those kind of people that carry the ball because if we’ve learnt anything from the Six Nations, they’ve got plenty of those guys.”

The young prop holds the record for the heaviest squat ever recorded in the Crusaders Academy, besting his previous mark of 255kg in 2020 with another effort of 270kg earlier this year.

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