While the Chiefs have failed in a bid to bring All Black lock Brodie Retallick into the squad for the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, there’s been success on other fronts.
“We had a conversation with him, but he’s down on the farm in the Hawke’s Bay and he’s having a bit of a break with his family there,” Gatland said.
Retallick is contracted with New Zealand Rugby until 2023 but is not tied to a Super Rugby side and is instead scheduled to spend 2020 and 2021 playing for Kobelco Steelers in Japan. As the Top League has been cancelled for this year, Retallick is effectively a free-agent.
Despite being contracted to NZ, the 28-year-old is under no obligation to turn out for the Chiefs (or any other side) and has evidently decided that a little bit of rest and recuperation is the best plan for 2020.
While the Chiefs wouldn’t have expected to have Retallick in the squad, former All Black Aaron Cruden was contracted to the 2012 and 2013 champions until June – which would have covered the whole Super Rugby season, were it not for the coronavirus-induced stoppage.
Thankfully, Cruden has extended his deal and will remain with the Chiefs until the completion of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“We’ve been able to keep Aaron Cruden here which is a huge plus for our environment,” Gatland said to Newshub.
Heading south, the Highlanders have also secured the services of a former All Black according to OneNews, with Nehe Milner-Skudder signing on for 2020.
Milner-Skudder, who has played all 35 of his Super Rugby matches for the Hurricanes, signed a contract to spend the season in France with Toulon but never made the trip over due to a dodgy shoulder.
With France’s Top 14 off the table until September at the earliest, Milner-Skudder will now try find his match fitness with a team that’s still reeling from the losses of the likes of Ben Smith, Tevita Li, Liam Squire and Jackson Hemopo since last year.
Elliot Dixon, another former Highlander, has confirmed that he won’t be returning to his old side for 2020 while Sam Whitelock, who was on a sabbatical in Japan, has linked up with the Crusaders once more.
Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off on June 13 with the Highlanders hosting the Chiefs in Dunedin.
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