Huge shout out to Viliami Taulani, Richard Judd, Luteru Laulala & Cardiff Vaega for being named in the Chiefs Development squad to tour Hong Kong.
The University of Waikato Chiefs Development squad depart on Sunday for an exciting 11-day tour to Hong Kong. The Chiefs Development team returns to Hong Kong following last years’ successful first tour, under a strategic development partnership formed between the Chiefs Rugby Club and the Hong Kong Rugby Union.
The tour is planned for the Chiefs Development team to train with the Hong Kong national squad and wider development players, and play a match against a Hong Kong national squad XV on Saturday 23 April. The Chiefs Development players will also participate in community engagement coaching events together with the HKRU, for young players from the HKRFU’s Youth and Mini Rugby communities.
Chiefs High Performance Manager Chris Tindall said: “It is great to be returning to Hong Kong with the University of Waikato Chiefs Development team to continue our rugby development work in partnership with the HKRFU to follow on from our very successful first tour last year. This tour to Hong Kong is a special opportunity for our players’ learning and development to experience touring as a squad fulltime to prepare to perform in training sessions and a match against the Hong Kong national team. It provides a real opportunity for the players to impress on and off the field for future Chiefs selection.”
Dai Rees, the General Manager of Rugby Performance for the HKRU said: “It is very exciting, yet again to welcome the University of Waikato Chiefs Development squad for the second time as part of our growing partnership. The past year has given both the Chiefs and HKRU the planning time and collaboration to maximise the elite development of both squads. The programme also allows the Hong Kong rugby community to fully engage with the community rugby activities headed by the Chiefs throughout their stay in Hong Kong. The partnership continues to provide vital preparation for the Asian Rugby Championships in May. Following joint training sessions over the first five days, the highlight for local rugby supporters will be the game between the Hong Kong Rugby Union XV and Chiefs Development team, as part of the Taipans Rugby festival at the Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday the 23rd of April, kicking off at 3.45pm.”
The Chiefs Development touring squad of 27-players features an exciting mix of youth and experience. The squad includes players from across the Chiefs region, with representation from Provincial Unions Counties Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki. Seventeen of the squad played in the New Zealand national provincial championship - the newly named Mitre 10 Cup competition last year.
Gallagher Chiefs and Bay of Plenty utility back Chase Tiatia joins the squad for the tour to Hong Kong alongside Chiefs replacement players in Bay of Plenty hooker Liam Polwart, Taranaki loose-forward Mitchell Brown and Bay of Plenty outside back Monty Ioane. Former Super Rugby and Counties Manukau mid-fielder Cardiff Vaega adds experience as does Taranaki utility back Codey Rei, who returns to Hong Kong to captain the University of Waikato Chiefs Development Squad for the second successive year.
The side’s promising young talent includes three 2015 Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20’s players in Counties Manukau 1st five/fullback Luteru Laulala, Bay of Plenty prop Aidan Ross and hooker Liam Polwart. Laulala is the younger brother of All Blacks Casey and Nepo Laulala. Prop Sefo Kautai and hooker Sekope Lopeti are in contention for the New Zealand U20s squad this year.
Last years’ University of Waikato Chiefs Development squad to Hong Kong included 2015 Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand U20s prop and captain Atu Moli and Waikato utility back Shaun Stevenson who were contracted to the Gallagher Chiefs squad for 2016 following the tour. Both Moli and Stevenson started for the Gallagher Chiefs in their victory over the Blues last Friday.
Waikato prop Ayden Johnstone and Taranaki lock Fin Hoeata who were also in the squad to Hong Kong last year, have been selected in the New Zealand U20s squad for the upcoming matches against Australia.
The Chiefs Development touring squad also includes three players from the Kobelco Steelers Top League club in Japan. Prop Hiroya Sawai, halfback Jeongchu Yang and 1st five-eighth Hideki Tanabe are currently training with the Chiefs under the High Performance partnership between Chiefs and the Kobelco Steelers.
The Chiefs Development touring team will be coached by Dave Dillon, Rodney Gibbs and Rhys Bayliss.
The University of Waikato Chiefs Development touring squad to Hong Kong is:
Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty),
Hiroya Sawai (Kobelco Steelers)
Jeff Thwaites (Bay of Plenty)
Duke Nginingini (Waikato)
Liam Polwart (Bay of Plenty)
Shahn Eru (Bay of Plenty)
Mitchell Brown (Taranaki)
Hayden Anderson (Bay of Plenty)
Henry Stowers (Bay of Plenty)
Viliami Taulani (Counties Manukau)
Te Aihe Toma (Bay of Plenty)
Richard Judd (Counties Manukau)
Jeongchu Yang (Kobelco Steelers)
Hideki Tanabe (Kobelco Steelers)
Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau)
Cardiff Vaega (Counties Manukau)
Lalakai Foketi (Bay of Plenty)
Elijah Nicolas (Bay of Plenty)
Dan Hollinshead (Bay of Plenty)
Chase Tiatia (Bay of Plenty)
Monty Ioane (Bay of Plenty)
Shelford Murray (Waikato)
University of Waikato Chiefs Development Squad players not available for the tour:
Solomona Sakalia (Bay of Plenty), Brian Alainu’uese (Waikato), Jacob Skeen (Waikato), Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), Pele Cowley (Waikato), Jordan Payne (Waikato).
Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki) has been called into the Gallagher Chiefs squad as a replacement player.
Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Sam Caird (Waikato), Fin Hoeata (Taranaki), Mitch Jacobson (Waikato), Luke Jacobson (Waikato), Jonathan Taumateine (Counties Manukau), Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki) and Orbyn Leger (Counties Manukau) have been selected in the New Zealand Under 20s squad for the tour to Australia during the tour to Hong Kong.