Toeava's shift a bolt from the Blues
October 28, 2005

In the controlled, filtered environment of selecting New Zealand's Super 14 rugby squads, the sight of new All Blacks tyro Isaia Toeava on the Hurricanes team sheet stuck out.

Most of the five franchises will field 28-man squads which were largely predictable, with yesterday's coaches meeting to negotiate draft places offering some subtle nuances.

The exception was Toeava, 19, who will based in Wellington, not Auckland, from February to May next year due to the requirements of North Harbour captain Rua Tipoki and some horse trading between both franchises and the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).

It is the second time in five days exciting Auckland back Toeava has taken centre stage, following his shock naming in the All Blacks tour squad on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the Blues included him in their group of 24 protected players. However, he was forced out of it when an NZRU selection panel deemed Tipoki must be included.

Tipoki had asked to be excused from the draft for personal reasons.

The Blues honoured the NZRU's instructions, placing Toeava on the draft, where he was snapped up by the Hurricanes.

The panel, including NZRU deputy chief executive Steve Tew, wouldn't discuss Tipoki's reasons for seeking dispensation.

Tew said several players make personal requests to remain in their home base every year. This year Tipoki was the only player who hadn't been included in a franchise's protected group of 24 to do so.

"We were satisfied with the circumstances that required him to stay there," Tew told Radio Sport.

"Over the years we've ended with what we consider to be five very well balanced sides and probably this time we have five more even sides than we've ever had."

Blues coach David Nucifora, who has a wealth of backline depth at his disposal said while the change wasn't ideal his franchise wouldn't take the issue any further.

"We have just have to accept the decision and get on with it now," he said.

"The system simply does not allow us to protect everyone we want. Telling players they have not made the squad is not an enjoyable experience."

The Blues are the first New Zealand franchise in the competition's history to release a current All Black to the draft.

The issue had similarities to last year when All Blacks veteran Andrew Mehrtens opted to stay with the Crusaders on personal grounds despite that franchise's first five-eighth depth and the requirements of the Hurricanes for a quality No 10.

There were 28 new players named today who hadn't played Super 12 rugby, divided evenly among the franchises.

Returning after stints overseas are first five-eighth David Holwell, who is back with the Hurricanes, and former All Blacks flanker Andrew Blowers, who has gone to the Highlanders.

The Highlanders feature the most changes from last year, 12, while the Hurricanes have the least with seven.

The defending champion Crusaders needed plenty of rejuvenation, filling holes left by departing former All Blacks such as Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Dave Hewett, Norm Maxwell and Sam Broomhall.

They have done this largely through youngsters introduced at NPC level this year while Auckland lock Brad Mika and Bay of Plenty flanker Tanerau Latimer are notable draft players.

Among the host of changes at the Highlanders, the biggest loss is centre Anthony Tuitavake, who was picked by the Blues. They will hope they can the most out of talented but under-performing Hurricanes draft winger Roy Kinikinilau. Blowers shapes as a logical replacement for departing No 8 Paul Miller.

The Hurricanes will hope two of the most exciting backs in the country -- Toeava and Tamati Ellison -- can learn plenty off returning veterans Holwell and halfback Brendan Haami.

The Blues, more difficult than ever to select this year because of the form of North Harbour and NPC champions Auckland, will feature a typically exciting backline despite the loss of All Blacks Mils Muliaina and Sam Tuitupou.

Both have gone down the road to the Chiefs, who field a largely home-grown squad despite the poor NPC form of both Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Notable are the returns from lengthy injury layoffs of fullback Loki Crichton and hooker Tom Willis.


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