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Trio of Blues youngsters sign contract extensions beyond World Cup

By Alex McLeod
(Photos / Getty Images)

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A trio of Blues youngster have committed their respective futures to the Auckland-based franchise, signing contract extensions beyond next year’s World Cup.

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Loose forward Adrian Choat, halfback Taufa Funaki and midfielder Corey Evans will all remain Blues players until at least 2024 after they each signed two-year contract extensions.

In doing so, the Blues have retained the services of some of the youngest players in the squad for the foreseeable future, of which all three players are expected to play prominent roles in.

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A member of New Zealand’s World Championship-winning U20 team in 2017, Choat has featured regularly for the Blues since joining the side as injury cover two years ago.

“He has developed admirably both in his core roles on the grass and as a contributor off it,” Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry said in a statement of the 24-year-old.

“While he is probably best served as a No 7, he has the size and the skillset to play at six and eight which makes him an extremely versatile and valuable member of our squad.”

With a total of 17 Blues caps to his name since debuting for the franchise last year, Choat – who spent time with the Bristol Bears as a short-term signing in 2019 – said he was excited to have secured his imminent playing future.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to represent Auckland and my Blues region, and the two-year contract gives me some security,” he said.

“It is a big positive for me, to be back home and back to university to continue my studies. As a young loosie, I am learning so much from the All Blacks and others both on and off the field.”

A debutant for the Blues this year, Funaki has impressed in his maiden Super Rugby Pacific campaign, making a total of six appearances, two of which were starts.

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“Taufa has real x-factor as a strong-running halfback and has worked extremely hard since joining us this year,” Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said of the 22-year-old, who is a former New Zealand Schools and New Zealand U20 representative.

MacDonald was similarly enthusiastic about the retention of Evans, the 21-year-old starlet who has caught the eye this season despite playing just four matches for the Blues.

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Another ex-New Zealand Schools and New Zealand U20 player, Evans was also captain of the Blues U20 side last year and was crowned 2021 Blues Development Player of the Year, leaving MacDonald highly optimistic about his future.

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“Corey came through our system as an outstanding prospect and we feel he has a big future as a confident, strong and intelligent midfield back, who has a great attitude,” MacDonald said,

Auckland head coach Alama Ieremia, meanwhile, welcomed the contract extensions of Choat, Funaki and Evans, all of whom represent the province at NPC level and will continue to do so for the next two years.

“Adrian has been a core member of the NPC campaign since joining the team through the Auckland academy program and has proved himself as a leader within the team,” Ieremia said.

“Both Taufa and Corey are following suit since leaving college and it is great to see that they will be representing the Blues as well as the Auckland rugby community and we are looking forward to working with them as they continue to grow as players.”

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