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Ricky Riccitelli chasing his second Super Rugby title after doing it all in New Zealand rugby

By Adam Julian
Ricky Riccitelli of the Blues makes a break during the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final match between the Blues and Fijian Drua at Eden Park, on June 08, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Ricky Riccitelli is tailor-made for the Blues basic and belligerent approach. The hooker helped the Blues win a dozen regular season Super Rugby Pacific matches with his fisty, diligent and uncomplicated style.

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Veteran coach Vern Corter has installed an edge and honesty to the Blues that was previously absent.

“I didn’t realise how far a straight conversation could go,” Riccitelli told RugbyPass.

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“Vern is the most honest coach I’ve had. All coaches have straight-up conversions, but Vern will call you out in front of everyone. There’s a care, clarity, and accountability about Vern that’s awesome.”

Riccitelli has been around long enough to see through charlatans. In 2015 he was a member of the New Zealand Under 20s that won the World Junior Championships in Argentina.

Riccitelli has played 70 matches for Taranaki winning an NPC Premiership in 2023. This season he became a Super Rugby centurion in the Blues 47-8 win over Moana Pasifika.

In 106 Super Rugby appearances, Riccitelli has scored 18 tries and won 75 games.

His first season at the Hurricanes in 2016 netted a Super Rugby title. He was used mostly as a reserve behind captain and All Blacks legend Dane Coles.

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“I learned so much from Colsey and most of it was away from the field; how to carry yourself, be a leader, a family man, become consistently excellent in what you do,” Riccitelli acclaimed.

“I moved to Auckland in 2022 because it was the right time to move on from the Hurricanes. If you don’t take yourself out of your comfort zone, you don’t evolve. I wanted a new challenge, a fresh start, both on and off the field.”

The Blues won a franchise record 15 consecutive matches in 2022 but appeared to regress in 2023.

“We got rolled in that semi-final against the Crusaders. We’ve always had big potential at the Blues but finding a game plan that suits each individual has been challenging,” Riccitelli admitted.

“This season we’ve gone for a real direct approach. It suits the players we have.

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“The key for us is trusting each other, nailing our week, and going out there excited to do our job.

“It’s not going to be easy to win this thing. It’s a war every week, but if everyone implements their skills, I believe we’ve got the most talented personnel.”

Riccitelli is an integral part of the Blues potent lineout. He’s developed a strong relationship with rival hooker Kurt Eklund, now-injured captain Patrick Tuipulotu and a cohort of industrious young locks.

“Kurt is a good player and we’re mates off the field. We help each other which makes us both better,” he said.

“Paddy is a big leader in our squad. He’s experienced and has a lot of mana. Paddy runs the lineout but when Sam Darry is available, he takes on some of that role.

“The lineout is massive for us. We have a big collective that meets a couple of times a week looking at video and nailing that part of the game.”

Laughlin McWhannell and Josh Beehre are other locks for the Blues that have added real value, who will have to be called upon when the Blues face the Brumbies.

The Blues have won 122 of 175 matches at Eden Park which could still host the final if the Hurricanes lose to the Chiefs and the Blues beat the Brumbies.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

2 Comments
M
Michael 11 days ago

He's looked better than ever and seems to punch above his weight. Now we need the commentators to get it right….. Ri"chee"telli.

While we're at it “Chip"riani….

T
T-Bone 12 days ago

He’s been a revelation this year under Cotter
Probably fourth in the ABs pecking order but his game has been great
And he’s still only 29 despite having played for 30 years!

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