The Crusaders are talking up Fijian recruit Nemani Nadolo, with coach Todd Blackadder suggesting he could be one of the most exciting players in next year's Super Rugby championship.
Nadolo was the mystery player unveiled today by the Crusaders as New Zealand's five franchises announced their squads.
Having missed out on the services of All Blacks wing Julian Savea, the Crusaders have looked to Japan to find another blockbusting wing.
Nadolo plays for the NEC Green Rockets in Japanese club scene.
"At 1.95m and nearly 130kg, he is an absolute hulk of a man, yet he can fly down the field like you wouldn't believe for a man that size. Comparisons have been drawn with Jonah Lomu, and we can't wait to work with him and unleash him in this competition," Blackadder said, in naming his squad.
Nadolo played Super Rugby with the Waratahs in 2009 and is a Fijian test player. The 25-year-old has also had brief tastes of the French and English scenes. He is a cousin of Australian dual-code representative Lote Tuqiri.
He is one of five additions to the crusaders which include recalls for experienced No 10 Colin Slade and prop Tim Perry who made his debut for the Blues this year.
The Crusaders have named Dan Carter in their 32-player mix despite him being on sabbatical after the All Blacks tour.
With most of the major signings and movements around the country having been signalled over the past few weeks, there were few surprises when the squads were formally announced at various functions today.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has declared next year as moving season after naming the most settled squad .
The Canes finished a disappointing 11th this year but Hammett has largely stuck by his squad with just four fresh faces, and hardly earth-shattering signings in Mark Abbott, Marty Banks, Cardiff Vaega and Hadleigh Parkes.
The return of former All Blacks prop John Schwalger is of greater benefit to the Hurricanes tight five.
"The youth we had in our team three years ago have now gained a lot of experience as both international and Super Rugby players, and I'm confident that group of players will step up this season," Hammett declared.
"Many of the players we have this year have shown a great deal of maturity throughout the ITM Cup."
The Chiefs have recruited well, mixing the return of All Blacks Mils Muliaina and Jamie Mackintosh with their successful formula of rewarding hard-grafting second tier talent, including the Tasman duo of loose forward Liam Squire and outside back James Lowe.
Ben Smith and Nasi Manu will co-captain a revamped Highlanders squad.
The southerners have been hit hardest by defections and have thought outside the square to fill some vacancies, introducing 14 new players.
Argentina prop Matias Diaz bolsters the front row stakes and former Auckland and Blues centre Winston Stanley ahs been lured back to New Zealand from the Western Force.
Will Ripia gets a Super Rugby reprieve to fill the hole left at No 10 by Slade's shift back to the Crusaders.
The Blues have named abrasive loose forward Luke Braid as their skipper.
"We just think he's the type of guy we need from an attitude point of view," Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said.
"He's not scared to drive high quality at training, he's not scared of anyone so he'll challenge people including the coaching staff and I think the consistency of his rugby is great for all of us. I think he's really going to grow into that role and I know he's really looking forward to the challenge."
The Blues look to have bolstered their squad to build on a promising first-up season under Kirwan.
They have made the high profile signings, luring Tony Woodcock back from the Highlanders and also picking up Ma'a Nonu while throwing a fair amount of risk into cross-code player Benji Marshall.
There was certainly a changing of the guard midway through the World Cup cycle with some older players gone to offshore deals.
These include: Ali Williams, Anthony Boric and Rene Ranger from the Blues; Craig Clarke, Romana Graham, Richard Kahui, and Brendon Leonard from the Chiefs; Tamati Ellison and Hosea Gear from the Highlanders.
Forwards: Tom McCartney (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), James Parsons (North Harbour), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland), Sam Prattley (Auckland), Angus Ta'avao (Auckland), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Tom Donnelly (Otago), Liaki Moli (Auckland), Culum Retallick (Bay of Plenty), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), Kane Barrett (Taranaki), Luke Braid (Auckland), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Steven Luatua (Auckland), Brendon O'Connor (Canterbury), Peter Saili (Auckland).
Backs: Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki), Bryn Hall (North Harbour), Piri Weepu (Auckland), Baden Kerr (Counties Manukau), Chris Noakes (Bay of Plenty), Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Ma'a Nonu (Wellington), Francis Saili (North Harbour), Jackson Willison (Waikato), Frank Halai (Counties Manukau), Benji Marshall (Auckland), George Moala (Auckland), Charles Piutau (Auckland), Lolagi Visinia (Auckland).
Wider training group: Joe Edwards (Auckland), Simon Hickey (Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour), Tom Murday (Northland), Albert Nikoro (Auckland).
Backs: Robbie Robinson (Southland), Tom Marshall (Tasman), James Lowe (Tasman), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Manawatu), Mils Muliaina (TBC), Tim Nanai-Williams (Counties Manukau), Robbie Fruean (Canterbury), Charlie Ngatai (Wellington), Bundee Aki (Counties Manukau), Andrew Horrell (Hawke's Bay), Aaron Cruden (Manawatu), Gareth Anscombe (Auckland), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato), August Pulu (Counties Mankau).
Forwards: Kane Thompson (TBC), Liam Squire (Tasman), Liam Messam (Waikato), Nick Crosswell (Manawatu), Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty), Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty), Brodie Retallick (Bay of Plenty), Ross Filipo (Wellington), Mike Fitzgerald (Manawatu), Matt Symons (Canterbury), Ben Afeaki (North Harbour), Ben Tameifuna (Waikato), Jamie Mackintosh (Southlanf), Pauliasi Manu (Auckland), Josh Hohneck (Bay of Plenty), Hika Elliot (Counties Manukau), Mahonri Schwalger (Counties Manukau), Rhys Marshall (Taranaki).
Wider training squad: Carl Axtens (Bay of Plenty), Nick Barrett (Southland), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato), Tevita Kolomatangi (Tasman), Brad Weber (Waikato).
Forwards: Mark Abbott (Hawke's Bay), James Broadhurst (Taranaki), Dane Coles (Wellington), Ash Dixon (Hawke's Bay), Ben Franks (Hawke's Bay), Reggie Goodes (Wellington), Jack Lam (Waikato), Faifili Levave (Wellington), Motu Matu'u (Wellington), Mark Reddish (Wellington), Ardie Savea (Wellington), John Schwalger (Wellington), Brad Shields (Wellington), Eric Sione (Wellington), Blade Thomson (Taranaki), Jeremy Thrush (Wellington), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (Wellington), Victor Vito (Wellington).
Backs: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki), Marty Banks (Tasman), Tim Bateman (Wellington), Cory Jane (Wellington), Alapati Leiua (Wellington), James Marshall (Taranaki), Hadleigh Parkes (Auckland), TJ Perenara (Wellington), Matt Proctor (Wellington), Julian Savea (Wellington), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Chris Smylie (Taranaki), Andre Taylor (Taranaki), Cardiff Vaega (Southland). Wider training squad: Chris Eves (Manawatu), Callum Gibbins (Manawatu), Adam Hill (Wellington), Billy Guyton (Tasman), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Manawatu)
Wider training squad: Chris Eves (Manawatu), Callum Gibbins (Manawatu), Adam Hill (Wellington), Billy Guyton (Tasman), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Manawatu).
Dominic Bird (Canterbury), Tyler Bleyendaal (Canterbury), Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury), Ryan Crotty (Canterbury), Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay), Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Ben Funnell (Canterbury) Zac Guildford (Hawke's Bay), Willi Heinz (Canterbury), Nepo Laulala (Canterbury), Rey Lee-Lo (Counties Manukau), Richie McCaw (Canterbury), Johnny McNicholl (Canterbury), Joe Moody (Canterbury), Nemani Nadolo (Tasman), Tim Perry (Tasman), Kieran Read (Canterbury), Luke Romano (Canterbury), Colin Slade (Canterbury), Jordan Taufua (Canterbury), Codie Taylor (Canterbury), Tom Taylor (Canterbury), Matt Todd (Canterbury), Jimmy Tupou (Counties Manukau), Adam Whitelock (Canterbury), George Whitelock (Canterbury), Luke Whitelock (Canterbury), Sam Whitelock (Canterbury).
Wider triaining group: Jed Brown (Canterbury), Kieron Fonotia (Tasman), Mike Kainga (Bay of Plenty), Rob Thompson (Canterbury), Nafi Tuitavake (North Harbour).
Forwards: Josh Bekhuis (Southland), Shane Christie (Tasman), Liam Coltman (Otago), Matias Diaz (Argentina), Elliot Dixon (Otago), Gareth Evans (Otago), Ma'afu Fia (Manawatu), Tom Franklin (Otago), Kane Hames (Bay of Plenty), John Hardie (Southland), Jarrad Hoeata (Taranaki), TJ Ioane (Otago), Chris King (Otago), Nasi Manu (Canterbury), Brayden Mitchell (Waikato), Brad Thorn, Joe Wheeler (Tasman).
Backs: Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Phil Burleigh (North Harbour), Jason Emery (Manawatu), Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland), Patrick Osborne (Canterbury), Hayden Parker (Otago), Buxton Popoalii (Otago) Willie Ripia (Bay of Plenty), Aaron Smith (Wellington), Ben Smith (Otago), Lima Sopoaga (Wellington), Winston Stanley (Western Force), Fumiaki Tanaka (Otago), Shaun Treeby (Wellington), Frae Wilson (Wellington).
Wider Training Group: Lee Allan (Otago), Richard Buckman (Hawke's Bay), Craig Millar (Otago) Trent Renata (Waikato), Ged Robinson (Hawke's Bay).
- Fairfax Media
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