After last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, New Zealand bid farewell to a considerable number of capped All Blacks, including loose forwards Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Liam Squire, Elliot Dixon, Luke Whitelock and Jackson Hemopo.
The latter four players were also all members of the Highlanders and left a significant hole in the southern side’s stocks for the 2020 competition.
Worryingly for Highlanders supporters, Shannon Frizell’s contract with the club is also set to end this year – but it looks like the Tongan-born All Black will hopefully be sticking around for at least another season.
“This is the last year but I’m looking for at least one more year next year,” Frizell told RugbyPass.
“Hopefully more but we’ll see how we go.”
In Frizell, James Lentjes and Dillon Hunt, the Highlanders still have a dollop of experience to call upon but beyond those three, there’s a considerable lack of proven performers in the loose forwards. Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Zane Kapeli and Sione Misiloi are all in their first years of Super Rugby.
Of the experienced trio, Frizell is the only one with any real experience playing on the blindside flank, showing how important it will be for the Highlanders to retain his services for at least another year.
Lentjes also won’t be seen again any time soon in 2020 after suffering a terrible injury against the Rebels earlier this year and with Super Rugby due to return in the near future, the Highlanders will certainly have the greenest loose forward trio of the New Zealand franchises.
Higher up the rugby ladder, Frizell will also likely feature for the All Blacks in 2020 after getting the call-up to last year’s World Cup as an early injury replacement for Luke Jacobson.
Read and Todd’s departures mean that there are certainly spots up for grabs this year. In particular, Read will leave a whole in the starting loose forward trio which will need filling and Frizell could have the inside running as the most experienced non-regular All Black loose left in New Zealand.
Frizell moved to New Zealand from Tonga in 2015 and represented his homeland in age-grade football and rugby. He debuted
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