New Zealand secondary schools pivot Beaudein Waaka is the headline recruit in the Taranaki Rugby academy for 2013.
The Gisborne Boys' High School first XV player has already headed south and will turn out for Clifton in next year's Taranaki senior A club competition.
Taranaki Rugby development manager Jono Phillips yesterday announced the Nexan Olex academy had swelled from the five players the union had on its books to at least 16 for next season.
While it is predominantly made up of local players, a number of new faces from outside the province have been selected, including former Hurricanes schools and Hawke's Bay under-20 lock Hugh Graham and Canterbury under-20 halfback Codie Atkinson.
Graham will play for the Inglewood club and Atkinson will turn out for Southern.
Waaka's New Zealand schools team-mate Reuben O'Neill has been included among a promising group of tight forwards, including fellow props Ryan Cocker and Baxter King. O'Neill is likely to return to New Plymouth Boys' High School next year.
Another prop, former Francis Douglas Memorial College and Hurricanes age-group rep Scott Mellow, has also been included.
The loose forwards intake looks strong, with former New Plymouth Boys' High School captain and New Zealand schools flanker Lachlan Boshier joined by Adrian Wyrill and Mitchell Brown, who have already played for Taranaki.
Also included after returning to Taranaki from Otago University is No 8 Mark Atkins, who has already attended a number of New Zealand sevens camps without breaking into the national side.
The remaining loose forward spot has gone to Coastal flanker Jade Fleming.
Another Taranaki rep in 2012, utility back Seta Tamanivalu, is back for 2013 and is joined by promising Southern winger Lewis Ormond.
Clifton fullback Eddie Uele has also been included while the academy has its first female recruit in teenage Taranaki sevens rep Michaela Blyde.
Phillips said it was likely the number of academy players would increase, with another five recruits being lined up, including several from outside the province.
"I think the players we bring in will only enhance club rugby and they will be pretty well spread right through the clubs."
A number of changes to the academy's programme will be introduced next year, including weekly sessions with Taranaki Rugby's professional development manager Colleen Coplestone, who will run leadership courses on developing skills like job interview techniques, media training and developing their CVs.
Taranaki head coach Colin Cooper has been working closely with Phillips on who he wanted in the academy.
"It's about succession planning for Taranaki rugby," Phillips said. "Rather than just recruiting players we look at where the holes are and making sure we have the stocks full in those areas."
As well as the academy, Taranaki Rugby is about to introduce training programmes for up to 45 players throughout the province, including up to 20 South Taranaki players who will come under the guidance of former Taranaki and Hurricanes halfback Brendan Haami in Hawera.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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