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New faces aplenty for Wai-Bush

Carterton’s Conan Gray offloading in the Tui Cup match against Gladstone on Saturday. He is one of many new faces in the Wairarapa-Bush squad. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY
GARY CAFFELL

The net has been cast wide in the naming of the Wairarapa-Bush rugby squad to play Horowhenua-Kapiti in a non-championship match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on May 5.

Twenty-eight players have been given the nod for a game which will kick off at 5.05pm as the curtain-raiser to the Super Rugby match between the high-flying Hurricanes and Lions from South Africa [7.35pm] with more than half of them about to represent Wairarapa-Bush at senior level for the first time.

For head coach Joe Harwood and his assistants, Dean van Deventer, and former All Black Piri Weepu, the selection process was complicated by the fact they have had only two series of club games to assess the form of contenders but Harwood is enthusiastic about the talent on offer.

“It’s exciting, there are a lot of new faces there and it will be interesting to see how they measure up against some pretty good opposition,” he said.

“Obviously, we don’t have a lot of time to get combinations up to speed but it will still give us a decent line on where the players are at.”

Interestingly, four of those named are playing their club rugby outside the Wairarapa-Bush region, the Tufuga brothers, No 8 Kirk and prop Max, who are with Victoria University in Manawatu and midfield backs, Cyrus Baker, who is with College Old Boys in Manawatu, and Teihania Brown, who is with Havelock North.

All these players are ex-Wairarapa-Bush age group players who will therefore be eligible to perform at Heartland level under the State of Origin provision, something which Baker did last season.

“They have shown a keenness to play for us and this is a chance to see what they can offer,” Harwood said.

Two other squad members – prop Connor Baker and centre Nicholas Mason – have joined the Carterton club from Taunton in England while Greytown first-five Moo Moo Falaniko is a Samoan age group rep and Gladstone wing Heimona Poturu is from the Cook Islands.

Several Wairarapa players will also be making their Wairarapa-Bush senior debuts – forwards Conan Gray [Carterton], Jack Loader [Masterton Red Star], Terry Norman [East Coast] and Henry Wilson [Marist] and backs Bryan Arnold [East Coast], Tristan Flutey [Martinborough], Jamie Griggs [East Coast] and Bon Wilson [Marist].

Notable names missing from the initial squad include regulars from past seasons in Greytown prop Nick Hohepa and Martinborough utility back Tim Priest but coach Harwood said little should be read into their omissions with the selectors having a good idea of what they were capable of.

“The door is certainly not closed on them, or anybody else for that matter,” Harwood said. “It’s early days and a lot could change as time goes on.”

WAIRARAPA-BUSH SQUAD

FORWARDS
Connor Baker [Carterton], Brendan Campbell [Eketahuna], Sam Gammie [Eketahuna], Jack Loader [Masterton Red Star], Lachie McFadzean [Carterton], Jaden Mason [Greytown], Terrence Norman [East Coast], James Pakoti [Martinborough], Andrew Smith [Gladstone], Kirk Tufuga [Varsity, player of origin], Max Tufuga [Varsity, player of origin], Chris Raymond [Martinborough], Epeli Rayaqayaqa [Gladstone], Henry Wilson [Marist].
BACKS
Robbie Anderson [Eketahuna], Bryan Arnold [East Coast], Cyrus Baker [College Old Boys, player of origin], Teihana Brown [Havelock North-player of origin], Nikora Ewe [Martinborough], Moo Moo Falaniko [Greytown], Tristan Flutey [Martinborough], Jamie Griggs [East Coast], Tipene Haira [Martinborough], Inia Katia [Gladstone], Nicholas Mason [Carterton], Heimona Poturu [Gladstone], Bon Wilson [Marist].

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