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North Harbour recruit former All Blacks trainee, lose capped flanker

By Tom Vinicombe

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North Harbour will likely be without one of their star players for the length of the upcoming NPC season – but they’ve brought in some experienced heads to help counter the loss.

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One-test All Black Dillon Hunt hasn’t been named in the squad for the 2021 campaign and is still feeling the effects of a concussion suffered in the late stages of last year. The former Highlanders openside flanker last featured on the field in the final game of Harbour’s 2020 campaign and despite signing for the Blues for this year’s Super Rugby season, was never able to run out in his new colours.

Former Crusader Ethan Roots is also off the books for the upcoming campaign, with the loose forward still signed on to represent Ospreys in Wales.

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There will be plenty of experience for the team to call on this year, however, with two bits of astute recruitment particularly noteworthy.

Former Chiefs hooker Rhys Marshall, who represented the New Zealand Under 20s in 2012, has returned to the country after a five-season stint with Munster. The 28-year-old trained with the All Blacks in 2013 and amassed 28 caps for the Chiefs over four seasons, vying for game time with the likes of Mahonri Schwalger, Hika Elliot and Nathan Harris.

Marshall will be competing with young Blues hooker Luteru Tolai for minutes this year.

The other major addition comes in the midfield, with Samoan centre Henry Taefu linking up with Harbour after representing the Western Force in Super Rugby this year.

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Taefu isn’t the only new internationally-capped player joining the squad, however, with Ikale Tahi halfback Aisea Halo and Manu Samoa lock Senio Toleafoa.

Former Chiefs wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma also won’t be back for the coming campaign but there’s otherwise a relatively settled look to the squad.

Experienced forwards Sione Mafileo, Nic Mayhew, Jacob Pierce, Murphy Taramai are all on deck while the likes of Bryn Hall, Bryn Gatland, James Little and Shaun Stevenson will lead the backs.

North Harbour kick off their campaign at home on August 8 against last year’s Premiership semi-finalists Waikato.

North Harbour squad:

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Sione Mafileo
Nic Mayhew
Teague McElroy
Fatongia Paea
Jimmy Roots
Karl Tu’inukuafe

Hookers

Donald Coleman
Rhys Marshall
Luteru Tolai

Locks

Xavier Cowley-Tuioti
Jacob Pierce
Senio Toleafo

Loose forwards

Tate Evans
Lotu Inisi
Tim Sail
Cameron Suafoa
Murphy Taramai
Sione Teu
Chlayton Frans (Apprentice)

Halfbacks

Bryn Hall
Aisea Halo
Siaosi Nginingini

First five-eighths

Bryn Gatland
Jack Heighton

Midfielders

Fine Inisi
James Little
Henry Taefu

Outside backs

Tomas Aoake
Kade Banks
Walter Fifita
Moses Leo
Antonio Mikaele-Tu’u
Shaun Stevenson

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North Harbour recruit former All Blacks trainee, lose capped flanker

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