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Kiwis primed for Wales call-up

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Kiwi duo primed for Wales following World Cup exit

Two New Zealanders could play a key role in Wales’ re-build following their semi-final exit from the World Cup.

Former Crusaders outside back Johnny McNicholl and ex-Hurricanes midfielder Willis Halaholo will both become available for international selection for Wales on residency grounds next year, when they will have lived in the country for three years.

The two 29-year-olds moved to Wales following the 2016 Super Rugby campaign, with McNicholl linking up with Scarlets, while Halaholo joined Cardiff Blues.

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Both men have featured regularly for their clubs since their arrivals in the United Kingdom, and would not be the only New Zealanders evident within the Welsh set-up.

Hunterville-born midfielder Hadleigh Parkes, formerly of the Blues, Hurricanes, Auckland and Manawatu, has won 24 caps for Wales since 2017 after shifting there three years beforehand, and has been an ever-present figure for the Welsh throughout this World Cup.

At the age of 32, though, it’s difficult to envisage the veteran playing internationally for much longer beyond 2019, making Halaholo an ideal replacement from next year onwards.

Had it not been for injury, Parkes would have been joined in Japan by ex-Blues, Chiefs and Auckland playmaker Gareth Anscombe, who was ruled out of the tournament after sustaining a knee injury during a warm-up fixture against England in August.

McNicholl, who was born-and-raised in Christchurch, told WalesOnline last year that it would be an honour to represent Wales in test match rugby if he was ever presented with the opportunity.

“If I do get that opportunity, I would be very humbled and grateful and take it with both hands,” he said.

“I feel like, I’ve brought my partner over here, we’ve adapted the Welsh culture, we’ve lived here for three years. We’ve really embraced it.

“I’ve got a daughter now. She’s Welsh, she was born here, she’s going to pre-school here and I feel like if I do play for Wales, I’d be doing her and her home nation proud.”

Wales will finish their World Cup campaign this Friday when they face the All Blacks in the third-and-fourth play-off match in Tokyo.

The fixture will act as Kiwi-born Warren Gatland’s final test as head coach of Wales, bringing an end to his 12-year tenure.

He will be replaced next year by fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac, who coached both Parkes and Anscombe at Auckland between 2011 and 2014, and has coached McNicholl at Scarlets since 2016.

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Kiwi duo primed for Wales following World Cup exit