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The mid-season arrival of All Blacks star Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane’s move to the midfield are the major talking points of the Blues squad revealed for next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
While the likes of high-profile trio Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu and Melani Nanai have departed, the bulk of the 2019 squad are returning (26 in total) for coach Leon MacDonald’s second season at the helm.
Beauden Barrett speaks to media after arriving back in New Zealand from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
By far the the most significant addition is Barrett, who after nine seasons at the Hurricanes has shifted north on a four-year deal where it’s hoped he can reverse the fortunes of the struggling franchise.
The 28-year-old has an option to take a short playing break in Japan at some stage during his contract, with terms of that clause to be negotiated with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues.
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There was some speculation that it could be next year. However, Barrett was among the 40 names listed by the Blues on Tuesday night and is set to link up with his new teammates midway through the season following an extended break from the game, which was also part of his contract.
Barrett is one of five first-fives in the squad alongside Otere Black, Harry Plummer, Stephen Perofeta, who missed last season through injury, and North Harbour rookie Jack Heighton.
Once he eventually takes the field, the Blues will be hoping Barrett will strike up a formidable combination with fellow All Black Ioane
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