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Locking in new talent

Carterton’s Brock Price, centre … adding power to Wai-Bush’s midfield. PHOTOS/FILE

Selections show intent to bulk up Wai-Bush squad
Harwood: Exciting mix of youth, experience


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Wairarapa-Bush coach Joe Harwood is excited about the young talent named in his first squad of the year.

Harwood named a 32-strong squad – including 10 new faces – on Wednesday to prepare for the traditional Queen’s Birthday Weekend fixture against Hawke’s Bay Saracens in Hastings.

Wiremu Grace.

An interesting aspect of the selection is the inclusion of two Samoans – lock Clinton Keil-Skelton and winger Ausage Faumui – who have played less than two full games each for Eketahuna.

Harwood said one of the problem areas for the team in recent years was the lack of size in the middle row and Keil-Skelton, who at 2.01m tall and weighing 130kg, is being given the chance to see how he performs under pressure.

The return of Wiremu Grace, who last played for Wairarapa-Bush in 2015, also adds size to the locking stocks.

Faumui showed a good turn of pace in his sole outing for Eketahuna last Saturday and Harwood is keen to see him at a higher level.

“Both of them are on short-term visas and if we want to consider them for the long term, it’s important that we have a good look at them now.

“Clinton is a big man and he should work well with Wiremu. Ausage is very quick.”

Another selected after minimal game time this season was Brock Price, who was named as a second-five rather than in his customary flanker role.

Raniera Petersen.

“Brock has returned from England fitter than ever. He’s a strong runner, a direct runner and we need physicality at 12 and he brings that.”

Price will be vying with 2018 regular Mike Lealava’a, from Wainuomata, and one of two imports, for a starting spot.

Greytown’s Tahana Brown could consider himself unlucky to miss out on selection. He has shown a good turn of pace, an ability to beat a man and strong defence in club rugby.

The second “import” Bruce Kauika-Petersen is a former Wairarapa College player now playing for Northern United in Wellington, and was part of the Wellington wider training squad in 2018.

Harwood said Kauika-Petersen’s connection with the province and his ability to play in two positions were good reasons to name him.

“We like to bring guys back who have an affiliation with Wairarapa-Bush.

“He is proven at hooker and flanker. We’ll be looking at playing him half the time at hooker and at flanker the other half.”

In the loose forwards, Harwood has named two newcomers with a lot of potential.

Josh Pepperell.

“Logan Flutey is a No 8-flanker and he’s been doing well for Martinborough and Joe Tako [Gladstone No 8] is a big unit. We want see how both of them go under pressure.”

Running the cutter at first-five looks to be a battle between two young guns, Raniera Petersen from Greytown and Josh Pepperell, son of 1980s stalwart Craig Pepperell, now based in Manawatu but playing for Eketahuna.

Harwood rates them highly.

“Raniera has just come back and is committed to Wairarapa.

“He runs well and he’s been standing out on defence, whereas Josh is a more traditional first-five and controls play well.”

Harwood won’t be lacking in pace in the back three.

As well as Faumui, the new faces – winger Logan Prendeville [Gladstone] and fullback Alex Priest [Martinborough] – and former New Zealand Heartland representative Nathan Hunt have been in scintillating form.

“Nathan and Alex have been going really well for Martinborough and Logan is a young guy with a lot of promise and we want to see how they go under pressure.”

Harwood has rewarded Carterton prop Vincent Liardet-Smith for his strong scrummaging and all-round form with a first time call up.

All in all, a good mixture of youth and experience and a squad that should give Wairarapa-Bush supporters plenty to look forward to throughout the season.

It’s a pity the Queen’s Birthday match will be their only outing before a two-month break.

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