Jimmy Cowan keen to 'mix it up' in Gloucester

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 18/04/2012
Jimmy Cowan
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
OFF TO GLOUCESTER: Jimmy Cowan has signed a two-year deal with English premiership side Gloucester and will be heading there in October.
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How does Jimmy Cowan rate among world halfbacks of the modern era?

Great legacy. His abrasive attitude, astute kicking and strong defence were pivotal during a successful period for the ABs.

Solid performer. You could always rely on him giving his best.

Not our finest No 9. Gave it his all but lacked the class of world's best halfbacks.

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Jimmy Cowan confirms move to Gloucester

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Gloucester-bound halfback Jimmy Cowan is looking forward to testing his game in Europe.

The slow-grinding wheels of rugby officialdom finally confirmed yesterday the news that most already knew, that Cowan will head to the English premiership in October on a two-year deal.

That will allow him to see out the rest of the season with the Highlanders, before a final fling with Southland that could allow him to become the union's 11th centurion.

After that it's a trip into the unknown for Cowan, whose abrasive style and strong kicking game would appear ideally suited for English rugby.

"The reason I signed with Gloucester, and I had a couple of offers on the table, is I know they are a passionate club, very parochial, with great fans. It reminded me of my roots back home with Southland," Cowan said.

"Their style of play suits my style, and I guess that was a big factor in the end."

Cowan, who hasn't ruled out playing beyond his initial two-year commitment, has watched the English premiership on Sky and can see himself in that environment.

"I still think I`ve got plenty to offer as a rugby player. I've always wanted to play Heineken Cup and premiership rugby.

"It's a great competition and it's great rugby. It's a style I'm really looking forward to mixing it up with them," he said.

"They've got their reasons for signing me.

"We all know what my strengths and weaknesses are. If that's what they want, then that's what I'll do."

The cherry-and-whites are seventh in the 12-team English premiership and have won three of their six games in the European championship, the Heineken Cup.

Cowan remains determined to finish off his time in New Zealand rugby strongly.

Any chance of him playing for the All Blacks this season appears unlikely, given he has been playing behind the sparky Aaron Smith at the Highlanders.

"It's the hardest thing, doing this when you are in campaigns, signing contracts. I've assured the boys and the coaching staff that my sole focus is here with the Highlanders and I'll be putting my best foot forward for this team to succeed," he said.

"I'm a proud man. I want to go out on good terms."

Cowan said the Highlanders are wary of the struggling Blues ahead of their Gordon Hunter Memorial clash in Dunedin on Friday night.

The struggling, Auckland-based franchise has won just once in seven starts this season.

"They are not too far away. I imagine they are working extra hard and it's only going to take one or two passes to stick and either team will be in trouble. We can't allow that; we need to stick to our structures and make sure that doesn't happen."

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Meanwhile, former Stags flanker Hale T-Pole has been called in on a three-week contract to help alleviate the Highlanders' loose forward injury woes.

T-Pole, who has most recently been playing for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan, has been brought in following the season-ending toe injury to Southland's John Hardie.

He played 19 games for the Highlanders between 2004 and 2007 but has been playing in Japan since 2008.

Mike Delany has been with the squad for the past two weeks after arriving from Japan following serious injuries to Colin Slade and Lima Sopoaga.

Delany played nine games for the Highlanders in 2008 before spending three seasons with the Chiefs, earning a place on the 2010 end-of-season All Black tour before heading to Japan at the end of the 2011 season.

WHAT THEY SAID

Tributes paid to Jimmy Cowan yesterday:

All Black coach Steve Hansen: "Jimmy has been an outstanding All Black and given his all every time he has worn the black jersey. He is a passionate player and fantastic team man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Jimmy has the respect of all his team-mates because of his commitment to the team and his mates, and we are very proud of what he has achieved at all levels of the game. When he goes, he goes with the best wishes of the team."

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph: "Jimmy has been a player who has always given his all on the field and I'm sure he will continue to do so in the future. As one of only two players to play 100 games for the Highlanders, he leaves behind a significant legacy."

Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley: "For over a decade Jimmy has been an outstanding ambassador for Southland rugby. He has shown through his achievements just what is possible by staying loyal."

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew: "Jimmy is one of the real characters of New Zealand rugby and has grown so much as a player and as a person since coming onto the scene more than a decade ago."

- The Southland Times

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