Injury cloud over Stags' Rutledge's future
Stags centurion Jason Rutledge's immediate playing future is in doubt after sustaining a serious chest injury in Saturday's Galbraith Shield final.
While Woodlands celebrated their first back-to-back premier title win in 19 years, Rutledge was left contemplating an injury that's set to leave him on the sideline for an extended period and out of the 2013 Stags squad named yesterday.
Rutledge left the field with about 15 minutes left in Saturday's final and was scheduled to have an ultrasound on a pectoral muscle yesterday.
The amount of time he will be out of the game will depend on how badly the muscle is injured and whether he'll need surgery.
While Rutledge is out, the Stags have welcomed back a trio of veteran players to their ranks.
David Hall (89 games), Hale T-Pole (60) and Bryan Milne (28) all return after significant absences.
Hall played alongside T-Pole for Northland last season, with T-Pole playing his last game for Southland before the 2007 World Cup.
Milne hasn't played for the Stags since 2005. "He's over the moon," Stags coach David Henderson said of Milne's recall. "He's played some good rugby this year, played well at the sevens, and played well against the Highlanders in Dunedin. It shows that he's very capable at that level, it's a nice wee story."
Flankers John Hardie (knee) and Tim Boys (hamstring) are recovering from injury and should be available over the next fortnight. The squad features newcomers Craig Smith and Juan Koen from Pirates-Old Boys, Auckland backline imports Gareth Williams-Spiers and Willis Halaholo (both Woodlands) and Midlands loose forward Tu Dawai.
Henderson said he still planned to add one player to the squad, probably someone who offered cover in a number of positions.
There were several unlucky players who missed selection, including Woodlands centre Sven Penwarden, who had been considered but had injury issues.
Woodlands halfback Sonny Rangitoheriri and flanker Alex Taylor could also consider themselves unlucky, along with Barbarians No 8 Scott McKee.
"There are a lot of guys in our squad who have trained all year [but have missed out]. We've got some limitations around funding and we can't afford to carry all these guys. They've been told why they haven't been included."
The Stags go into a two-day camp in Omaui today before their first pre-season game on Saturday, against North Otago in Oamaru.
Getting through to the championship semifinals, where they were beaten by eventual winners Counties Manukau last year, would be a goal, Henderson said.
"Part of our camp is to set our goals for the season but I guess you'd think [semifinals] would be the minimum. We'll discuss that as a group over the next couple of days."
Stags 2013 squad (with Southland caps in brackets): Tayler Adams (4), Nicholas Barrett (25), Josh Bekhuis (82), Tim Boys (81), Tim Cornforth (17), Naulia (Tu) Dawai (0), Elliot Dixon (27), Scott Eade (15), Michael Fatialofa (13), David Hall (89), Willis Halaholo (0), John Hardie (45), Keanu Kahuhura (1), Nemia Kenatale (7), Juan Koen (0), Jamie Mackintosh (captain) (92), Marty McKenzie (15), Bryan Milne (28), Tukiterangi Raimona (5), Robbie Robinson (51), Craig Smith (0), Hale T-Pole (60), Talemaitoga Tuapati (4), Cardiff Vaega (13), Gareth Williams-Spiers (0). *one to be added. Gone from last year: Dion Bates, Jimmy Cowan, Matt Gandy, Nathan Hohaia, Hoani Macdonald, Scott McKee, Brayden Mitchell, Ben Nally, Junior Ngaluafe, Micheal Peterson, Kade Poki, Jason Rutledge, Alex Ryan, Matt Saunders, Campbell Smith, Alex Taylor, Mark Wells.
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