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New Zealand’s next generation of young stars, a splash of international talent and a strong core of established names are spread across the five Super Rugby squads named to contest the competition’s 25th year.
No fewer than 46 ‘rookies’, defined as those players who have signed their first full-time Super Rugby contracts, are among the 195 players contracted to the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes for the 2020 season.
There are also nine international players with all five clubs fielding at least one, seven sets of siblings, and 11 players whose fathers also played Super Rugby.
Highlighting the strength of New Zealand Rugby’s development pathway are eight players from the 2019 New Zealand under-20 squad – Dallas McLeod, Cullen Grace, Fergus Burke and Leicester Faingaanuku (Crusaders); Etene Nanai-Seturo, Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs); Devan Flanders (Hurricanes); and Scott Gregory (Highlanders). An additional 21 players have previously been part of the New Zealand under-20 programme.
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Lock Cullen Grace at the Crusaders will be the youngest player at 19 years old, while Hurricanes prop Ben May will be the oldest, at 37.
Nanai-Seturo and Gregory, along with Caleb Clarke (Blues) and Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes), have put their names forward to join the All Blacks Sevens Olympic campaign next year, meaning the Chiefs, Highlanders, Blues and Hurricanes have been allowed to contract an extra player as cover for the 2020 season.
There are nine international recruits including thrice-capped England and Harlequins centre-wing Joe Marchant at the Blues, and former Sharks centre Kobus van Wyk, who joins the Hurricanes from South Africa.
Canadian captain Tyler Ardron returns from Rugby World Cup duties to the Chiefs, Tongan Rugby World Cup call-up Fetuli Paea joins the Crusaders, while former Australian under-20s representative Chris Kuridrani links up with the Highlanders.
Other international players include Samoa’s Ray Niuia (Blues) and Kane Leaupepe (Hurricanes), Tonga’s Zane Kapeli (Highlanders), and United States representative Tony Lamborn (Blues).
Family ties are as strong as ever. Rookies Isi Tuungafasi (Crusaders) and Connor Garden-Bachop (Highlanders) and the return of Peter Umaga-Jensen (Hurricanes) join the ranks of sibling sets which total seven in 2020.
Tuungafasi is the younger brother of Blues and All Blacks prop Ofa, Garden-Bachop is the younger brother of Hurricanes first five-eighth Jackson, while Umaga-Jensen’s twin brother Thomas is a Highlander. The other twins are the Goodhue boys, Jack (Crusaders) and Josh (Blues).
Beauden Barrett’s move to the Blues means the family’s sibling rivalry now stretches across three clubs with Jordie at the Hurricanes and Scott with the Crusaders. Rieko and Akira Ioane (Blues); and
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