All Blacks star takes 'extended break'
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENTS: All Black hooker Codie Taylor will only play the tail end of the 2024 Super Rugby season, because of an extended post-World Cup break.
The defending champion Crusaders made the announcement as they unveiled their squad for the new season.
Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny and All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty are key additions for the Crusaders when the new campaign begins in February.
But the 32-year-old Taylor, who started the World Cup Final when New Zealand lost 11-12 to South Africa last month, has opted to take a non-playing sabbatical.
After a decade with the Crusaders, the veteran forward is only expected to return from Round 10 of the competition in late April.
“Codie has been here a long time,” said Crusaders coach Rob Penney.
“For his longevity, it’s important for him to have a wee break and he’s earned that right.
“He’s due back about three weeks before the play-offs.”
The Christchurch-based Crusaders are chasing an eighth straight Super Rugby title and will do so under Penney, who replaces All Blacks-bound Scott Robertson as coach.
Crotty, 35, returns to the Crusaders on a one-year contract after four years in Japan.
Former British & Irish Lions star Halfpenny joins having retired from the international game, following his final appearance for Wales last weekend in a win over the Barbarians.
“It’s a very exciting addition to our group,” Penney said.
“Leigh has been world-class for a number of years.”
Scott Barrett captains the Crusaders, who have lost the experience of his All Black teammates Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga and Leicester Fainga’anuku – after they signed for overseas teams.
(Continue below …)
Ta’avao rejoins Blues
All 12 Super Rugby Pacific teams announced their squads on Thursday.
Among the New Zealand sides, All Blacks prop Angus Ta’avao has rejoined the Blues, where he started his Super Rugby career in 2012, from the Chiefs.
Former Wales flyhalf Rhys Patchell will join the Highlanders and Argentina fullback Martin Bogado returns for his second season with the Dunedin-based team.
New Zealand-born England loose forward Brad Shields has returned to the Hurricanes after a spell in Europe with Wasps, then Perpignan.
Shields made 104 appearances for the Hurricanes from 2012 until 2018, before moving to England, where he played nine Tests for the national side.
At the Hurricanes he will fill in for All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea, who is spending the 2024 Super Rugby season in Japan.
“Brad’s presence in the team will be crucial,” said the Hurricanes’ Scottish coach Clark Laidlaw.
“We already know his qualities as a player, so we are delighted to have him back.”
Among the Australian franchisers, Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou has joined the Rebels from Reds.
Western Force have lured scrumhalves Nic White from the Brumbies and Ben Donaldson from the Waratahs.
The Reds have turned to youth with 10 rookies in their squad.
Blues: Angus Ta’avao (from the Chiefs), Laghlan McWhannell (Chiefs), Kade Banks (North Harbour), Cole Forbes (Glasgow Warriors – URC), PJ Sheck (Wellington), Josh Beehre (Auckland), James Thompson (Counties-Manukau), Lucas Cashmore (Bay of Plenty), Meihana Grindlay (Taranaki)
Chiefs: Sione Ahio (Auckland), Jimmy Tupou (Japan), Wallace Sititi (North Harbour), Kaleb Trask (Japan), Kauvaka Kaivelata (Counties-Manukau), Malachi Wrampling-Alec (Waikato), Tom Florence (Taranaki/NOLA Gold – MLR), Daniel Rona (Taranaki), Liam Coombes-Fabling (Waikato)
Hurricanes: Ben Grant (North Harbour/San Diego Legion – MLR), Brad Shields (Wellington), Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty/San Diego Legion – MLR), Siale Lauaki (Wellington), Josh Taula (Manawatū), Harry Godfrey (Hawke’s Bay)
Crusaders: Jamie Hannah (Canterbury) Leigh Halfpenny (Welsh international), Ryan Crotty (Japan), Levi Aumua (Moana Pasifika), Tahlor Cahill (Canterbury), Jone Rova (Canterbury), Heremaia Murray (Northland), Ioane Moananu (Counties Manukau)
Highlanders: Henry Bell (Otago), Jack Taylor (Southland), Mitch Dunshea (Crusaders), Tom Sanders (Japan), James Arscott (Otago), Rhys Patchell (Welsh international), Jake Te Hiwi (Otago), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Moana Pasifika), Oliver Haig (Otago), Hayden Michaels (Southland), Nathan Hastie (Otago), Ajay Faleafaga (Otago), Matt Whaanga (Southland)
Fijian Drua: Sailosi Vukalokalo (Fiji U20), Isikeli Rabitu (Suva Grammar School), Epeli Momo (Montauban – Rugby Pro D2 & Fiji U20), Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula (Manawatū & Fiji U20), Waqa Nalaga (Manawatū & Fiji U20)
Moana Pasifika: Aisea Halo (North Harbour), Irie Papuni (Western Sydney Two Blues, Shute Shield), Ofa Tauatevalu (Manawatū), Ola Tauelangi (NSW Waratahs), Otumaka Mausia (Auckland), Semisi Paea (Bay of Plenty), Tom Savage (Suntory Japan), Tomasi Maka (NSW Waratahs), Viliami Fine (Southland), Viliami Napa’a (Tasman), Sateki Latu (NSW Waratahs), Donald Brighouse (New England Freejacks), James Lay (Blues), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Lalomilo Lalomilo (Bay of Plenty), Nigel Ah Wong (Bay of Plenty), Pepesana Patafilo (Crusaders), Sama Malolo (San Diego Legion – MLR), Sione Havili Talitui (Crusaders)
All the teams