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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

Amongst the Super Rugby news this week is the announcement that Tanerau Latimer will return to Super Rugby and join up with the Blues.

Lima Sopoaga has also extended his stay at the Highlanders.

Meanwhile the Brumbies will lose Matt Toomua to Leicester Tigers when the European season of 2016 / 2017 starts after Super Rugby of 2016, but therefore he will still be available for the Brumbies in 2016. The Brumbies have also signed hooker Robbie Abel with the Brumbies’ Extended Playing Squad for 2016.

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Super RugbyMassive experience and exciting new talents are the order of the day for all New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises as they reveal their 2016 squads.

The Highlanders have made minimal changes to their 2015 championship winning squad, with just 9 new additions to their 38-man squad. The side they beat in the 2015 final, the Hurricanes, have taken a similar approach, opting for continuity in retaining 30 players of the greater 39-man squad.

The Chiefs will boast 12 former and current All Blacks in their squad and a further 14 fresh faces. 4 Players have been promoted from the Crusaders’ wider training group with a further 11 players joining the franchise for the 1st time.

The Blues are the only side who have gone against the grain as head coach Tana Umaga has built his 2016 squad around 6 core players, as he looks to resurrect the franchise to his former glory.

We look at all New Zealand’s Super Rugby squads:

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Paul Feeney

Paul Feeney

Auckland ITM Cup head coach Paul Feeney has been named an assistant for the Blues, commencing at the end of this year’s provincial championship.

Feeney completes the new coaching group for the Blues under head coach Tana Umaga, taking specific responsibility for the backs attack and skills. He joins new defence coach Alastair Rogers and current forwards coach Glenn Moore.

Feeney, a former North Harbour representative, has been a professional coach for 14 seasons including 2 as assistant coach for Fiji and including winning the Rugby World Cup Sevens title and also coached for 2 years in Japan.

He has been involved in the ITM Cup with North Harbour, Bay of Plenty and Auckland, taking over as head coach last year.

Feeney won 3 Heartland Championship titles in succession with East Coast from 2006 – 2008, and was assistant coach with the Blues Development side for the last 3 years.

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Alistair Rogers

Alistair Rogers

All Blacks Performance Analyst Alistair Rogers will become the new assistant coach for the Blues.

Rogers, who has been with the All Blacks for the last 7 years, was named to join new head coach Tana Umaga for the next 2 years at the Blues.

He has had a special focus on opposition analysis and defence with the All Blacks and will take the responsibility for defence at the Blues, joining incumbent forwards coach Glenn Moore.

The former professional player is keen to return to a full-time coaching role, after guiding the Ballina Rugby Club in Ireland for 12 months, a stint as defence coach at Honda in Japan and a spell as Hurricanes assistant defence coach last year.

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Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer

Could Auckland rugby icon Carlos Spencer be on the verge of making a dramatic return to the Blues as a skills coach under Tana Umaga?

It might seem a longshot but the door could be open according to Blues boss Michael Redman.

Spencer, among the most gifted footballers in New Zealand rugby history, wants to return to New Zealand from South Africa having quit Super Rugby’s Kings franchise which he says owes him substantial wages.

Redman told the Herald the Blues will decide within days whether to appoint a new skills coach, or make the job contestable. If it is the latter, Spencer – who approached the franchise this year – would “absolutely be an option and we would hope and expect he would apply.”

The 39-year-old Spencer is on the lookout for a new job after parting ways with South Africa’s Eastern Province Kings, the apparently financially troubled franchise which returns to the expanded Super Rugby competition next season.

His shock departure from the Kings, revealed yesterday, has cast a further spotlight on issues facing the expanded Super Rugby competition.

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Culum Retallick

Culum Retallick

The Melbourne Rebels have strengthened their squad for the 2016 season with the signing of lock Culum Retallick from the Blues on a 2 year deal.

Retallick has made nearly 50 Super Rugby appearances since debuting for the Chiefs in 2010, also representing the Blues and Highlanders, where he played alongside future Rebels teammates Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson.

He has also made close to a century of appearances for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup since debuting as a 23 year old in 2008, and joins on a foreign developing player contract.

Retallick said he was excited about challenging himself professionally, and joining a team he has watched develop in recent years.

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Sir John Kirwan

Sir John Kirwan

Tana Umaga

Tana Umaga

Sir John Kirwan:

Blues rugby legend Sir John Kirwan has resigned his role as head coach of the organisation.

Kirwan, who has been head coach for 3 years, has announced that he will not seek reappointment for a further term as coach and will step aside, effective immediately.

While Kirwan had put up a proposal to the Blues board for his continued involvement, he said that he had reconsidered over the past few days after talking with his family, colleagues and friends.

“I had a chance to take a breath and reflect about the situation, my future and above all my love of this Blues club and the players,” Kirwan said.

“People who know me well know that I do not walk away from a challenge and that was what was driving me because I know what has been set-up in terms of organisational structure in the last 2 years.

“However I always said that if I didn’t bring about the results that the players, the club and the fans wanted, then I would step aside.”

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Luke Braid

Luke Braid

Tony Woodcock

Tony Woodcock

Keven Mealamu

Keven Mealamu

The Blues have plenty to play for in their final Super Rugby match of the season, against the Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday.

Iconic hooker Keven Mealamu will lead the team in his 175th and final Super Rugby match, while fellow All Black James Parsons will come off the bench for his 50th cap for the Blues.

Friday also marks the end of an era for some of the Blues’ longest serving players.

Mealamu will be stepping on to the field for his last time in the Blues jersey.

Tony Woodcock, who is out from play with a shoulder injury, and Luke Braid out with a concussion, will be sitting in the Blues players’ box for their final game.

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Charles Piutau

Charles Piutau

Charles Piutau has been told by the New Zealand Rugby Union that he cannot play for the Blues next year.

The 23-year-old, has accepted a deal with Pro12 club Ulster midway through the 2016 year, and he wanted to play for the Blues before he left.

If Piutau was allowed to continue playing in Auckland next year he would be available for more than 10 of the Blues Super Rugby games in the 2016 season before his obligations at Ulster began.

However NZRU has denied the opportunity for the 23-year-old to continue playing for the Blues next year, applying its regulation that Super Rugby players must available for All Blacks Test duty.

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Patrick Tuipulotu

Patrick Tuipulotu

Steven Luatua

Steven Luatua

It is an unlucky 13 for the Blues, with 13 players on the injury list, including 4 players who are unlikely to play again in the final 4 weeks of the Super Rugby regular season.

Joining captain Jerome Kaino and Luke Braid on the long term injured list are All Blacks Steven Luatua and Patrick Tuipulotu.

Luatua, the stand-in captain for Kaino, dislocated his shoulder in the win over the Bulls on Friday and with the associated nerve damage, will not return for the Blues final 3 games. Tuipulotu has a long-term hip injury that has worsened and he, too, is unlikely to make it back in the next 4 weeks.

Both players require further tests prior to any decisions about their prognosis and management.

Joining them on the unavailable list this week is Tony Woodcock with a shoulder injury sustained in a collapsed scrum in the match against the Bulls and Charlie Faumuina who is on All Blacks leave.

Others not considered for this week’s match include Pita Ahki (hamstring), Dan Bowden (groin) and Bryn Hall (foot).

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