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The 6ft 8 lock who just won the MLR title the Highlanders have brought back home

By Adam Julian
Will Tucker #5 of Rugby New York exits the locker room prior to the Major League Rugby match against the Seattle Seawolves at JFK Stadium. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images for Rugby New York)

The Highlanders only won four out of 15 matches in 2022 but if Will Tucker has his way the southerners won’t be easy beats in 2023.


The 6ft 8, 111 kg, lock is familiar with winning. In his final year of college, he helped St Bede’s College win the Canterbury championship. In 2020 he was part of the Otago team that beat Taranaki 30-19 in Inglewood to capture the Ranfurly Shield.

Last season he was a member of New York Rugby who won Major League Rugby in the USA. In the 30-15 victory over the Seattle Seawolves in the final, Tucker scored a try.

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“America felt like a home away from home. We had so many Kiwis on our roster that it was almost ridiculous. I don’t want to name them all just in case I forget one,” Tucker told RugbyPass.

“The opportunity to play in America came from Rick Saletzo and Andy Ellis, two Kiwis running the joint. Rick was the manager of the All Blacks and is a really interesting guy.

“The level of rugby wasn’t too different from the NPC but the limit on the number of scrum resets per incident made a bit of a difference. After two resets a penalty or free kick was guaranteed to happen.

“Our season really gained momentum when Nehe Milner-Skudder arrived. He’s all class on the field and the professionalism, detail, and culture he helped develop was huge. What a legend.”


Nic Mayhew, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Brendon O’Connor, Kara Pryor, Jack Heighton, Jason Emery, Fa’asui Fuatai and Waisake Naholo were other Kiwis on the New York roster. New York is based in Hoboken, New Jersey, the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.

The Tucker household is the birthplace of three first-class players. In 2019 former Waikato loose forward Brad Tucker was Major League Player of the Year with Seattle. James Tucker captained Waikato to NPC Premiership glory in 2021 and was instrumental in the Blues charge to the 2022 Super Rugby final. Will has made 25 appearances for Otago after a brief stint with Canterbury. All three brothers are renowned for their uncompromising approach.

“It was pretty niggly in the backyard. Brad is a redhead so they’re always fiery while James has always played on the edge.

“What can I bring to the Highlanders? I think my height in the lineout will be an asset and I like to get stuck in physically.


“I was approached by the Highlanders midway through the Otago season. I was surprised but chuffed at the same time. It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting a long time for.”


Will was a standout for St Bede’s College when they won the 2015 Canterbury championship. Remarkably a British Lion, World Cup captains of Uruguay and Japan and an All Black are among the impressive cohort of flankers or second-row forwards playing professional rugby out of the gates of the all-boys Catholic school on Main North Road, Papanui.

Josh Navidi, Michael Letich, Charlie Gamble, Billy Harmon, James Lentjes, Elliot Dixon, Dominic Gardner, Alejandro Martin Nieto Serra (71 tests for Uruguay), and Sione Lavemai, are all ‘Bedians.’

“Everyone looks up to Christchurch Boys’ High School as the factory. They’re the favourites every year because of their size and tradition. At St Bede’s I guess we play with a bit of a chip on our shoulder. That battler, underdog thing. Taking down Christchurch Boys’ is always a motivating priority.

“In 2014 we didn’t have the best season. It forced us back to the drawing board and we developed an awesome culture and game plan.”

Tucker was in the Canterbury Academy but stuck behind a backlog of promising prospects ventured further south to Dunedin. He now rolls the ‘R’ and is close to completing a sports marketing degree.

“I made New Zealand U20s in 2018 but I was kind of stuck at Canterbury, so I went to Otago. Winning the Ranfurly Shield in 2020 was huge. It meant the whole family have won it which is pretty cool. In 2021 we beat Canterbury 22-20 that was awesome too.”

With Tucker, Pari Pari Parkinson, and Fabian Holland the Highlanders won’t lack for height in the lineout. Marino Mikaele Tu’u, James Lentjes and All Black Shannon Frizell should bring plenty of bustle in the back row.

“The boys are fit and healthy and working hard. We know we’ve got the talent to succeed. We’ll give it a decent crack for sure,” Tucker warned.


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Jon 20 minutes ago
How Maro Itoje terrorised the All Blacks lineout

Yeah England were much smarter, they put their much vaster experience to use in both the scrum (bending/not taking hit) and lineout (Itoje early sacks) law vagaries. Really though, I know what is there, I’m more worried about Englands locks. We only got to see Itoje and Martin, right? Depth allround in the England camp was probably the difference in the series and the drop off when Itoje reached his minutes limit for the season (it was like the plug was pulled from the charger) was up their with keeping Sexton on the park in that quarter final. What happened there? You have a lot of watching hours experience with locks come blindsides Nick, especially with a typical Australian player make up, have you see a six the size of Barrett absolutely dominate the position and his opposition? I can easily see Scott, and even Martin for that matter, moving to the blindside and playing like Tadgh Beirne with the amount of top locks we have coming through to partner Patrick. Still with the English mindset, because despite running the best All Black team I’ve seen in a long time close, they do need to find improvement, and although I thought they had a lot of good performances from their 7’s, I really like the prospect of Cunningham-South in his 8 spot and Earl on the open. Can you see Martin as mobile enough to take over Lawes? I absolutely loved his aggression when Jordie ran upto him to try and grab the ball. That alone is enough reason for me to try him there.

9 Go to comments
sean 2 hours ago
The bite don't match the bark

Yeah, he has a few good points… I disagree that our 7s haven't done anything, we won Bronze in 2016, and we were virtually unplayable to the backend of the “teens” winning the series. 7s is far more competitive globally than Union, so it's fair to say we haven't dominated, but we are almost always contenders. But I do agree that our national side doesn't perform nearly as well as it should between World Cups, and I do agree that our supporters can be too passionate and the opitimity of what Rugby stands against. I have said so many times. And I also believe some context needs to be taken into account with Saturday's win for Ireland. They're a really good team! Settled coaching staff, and bar a few legends retiring, they've had a full season and plenty of time together. We have some youngsters being groomed for the future, have played only 3 games now under a new coaching team with new philosophies and game plans. I'm excited by what the future of this team holds, as much as I am disappointed by the result. But unlike this article suggests, I am never going to take away from what Ireland has achieved, is achieving, and where they're heading. As a Rugby fan, I love the tight games, like the last two weekends. As a Bok Super Fan, I agree we don't perform as well as we should. And as an aside, you come play a game at 7am on our fields, bud. -2°c and frost on the field that is as hard as concrete…. Then we’ll see just how tough you are. Well done Ireland! They played well, and gave our boys a lot to think about. That's what you want from the top two teams in the world. Rugby won. The fans of this greatbsport won. A'n bullshit like this article is why Rugby is losing its identity. I don't like soccer. This article perpetuates the soccer influences the game of Rugby is starting to see. It's why Wayne Barnes retired, feared for his family, and he isn't the only ref to say so. I have called out many Bok fans for being an embarrassment to the game, and I will continue to do so., this article is close to the same bullshit. You should be better.

45 Go to comments
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