De-listed Willison whisked away to Blues

DAVID LONG
Last updated 12:36 28/10/2012
Jackson Willison
BEN CURRAN/Waikato Times
BLUE CORNER: After being unwanted by the Chiefs, Jackson Willison will find himself in the Blues' squad next season.

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Jackson Willison has chosen to go with the Blues next year, turning down the chance to remain with the Chiefs.

The second-five was de-listed by Dave Rennie recently, with the Chiefs coach believing that no one else would want him and he'd be able to sign Bundee Aki and then pick up Willison again in the draft.

But his plan has backfired with Blues coach Sir John Kirwan nabbing the former New Zealand under-20 player to fill the void left by Ma'a Nonu's controversial exit to the Highlanders.

A couple of years ago Willison was touted as a player who'd have a huge career ahead of him but he found his path blocked this season by Sonny Bill Williams and struggled for game time.

With the only other second-five at the Blues being Francis Saili, this should finally be the campaign where Willison is able to consistently demonstrate his undoubted talents.

The Blues have had another busy week filling up their roster and Sunday News can reveal that Sir John Kirwan has recruited Ronald Raaymakers and Frank Halai, both from Counties Manukau.

Raaymakers is a lock/flanker who made a big impression for the New Zealand under-20s last year and was also part of the Chiefs' wider training squad.

Halai has been a regular for the New Zealand sevens team. He was unwanted by Waikato this year and returned to Counties with the intention of securing a Super Rugby contract and moving away from the sevens game.

Another Counties player who's secured a Super Rugby contract is flanker Jimmy Tupou, who has been picked up by the Crusaders.

Also signed for the Blues next year is Taranaki halfback Jamison Gibson-Park. Kirwan was looking at Northland's Samisoni Fisilau earlier during the NPC, but was impressed with how Gibson-Park played over the second half of the campaign.

Sherwin Stowers, who has interest from NRL clubs, may miss out on getting a new Super Rugby contract with his best chance of picking one up coming from the Highlanders.

Jamie Joseph was hoping to pick up Sean Maitland, but the former Crusader has decided to move to Glasgow, in the hope of eventually playing for Scotland.

The Highlanders are also interested in Auckland's Ben Lam and have signed Otago's Buxton Popoali'i for next year's squad.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs want to sign New Zealand under-20 hooker Rhys Marshall.

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