Brumbies boss hands Kiwi a super lifeline
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Brumbies have confirmed their squad for the 2021 Super Rugby Season, with 28 of the club’s 2020 title squad returning next year.
The 36-player group includes scrumhalf Issak Fines, who will wear Brumbies colours again after making his debut for the club in 2020, and Lock James Tucker from New Zealand.
Tucker was earmarked for great things when he left high school.
The St Bede’s College alumnus headed north to Hamilton and earned selection in the New Zealand Under 20s side before being signed by Waikato for that year’s provincial competition.
Tucker, however, couldn’t take the field for the Mooloos due to a slew of injuries. In fact, despite being in or around the side for the past seven seasons, Tucker has amassed just 42 games for Waikato.
Despite his lack of provincial minutes, Tucker still managed to earn selection for the Chiefs in 2016 and 2017 but accumulated just five appearances.
Strong seasons for Waikato in 2017 and 2018 weren’t enough for Tucker to retain his spot with the Chiefs, however, and the big lock headed to Italy in the provincial off-season to continue his rugby development.
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Following Waikato’s return to the premiership division of the Mitre 10 Cup in 2019, Tucker was picked up by the Blues for Super Rugby 2020 but a knee injury suffered in the pre-season prevented him from taking the field. It also curtailed his provincial season, and Tucker will now enter 2021 without any professional rugby under his belt for a whole year.
Tucker’s luck may be about to turn, however, with the Brumbies today announcing that the Australian-born 26-year-old has signed with the Super Rugby AU champions for the year ahead.
Tucker joins the team as a replacement for Murray Douglas and Blake Enever, who have both headed offshore following the 2020 season. He is one of three players in the side recruited from outside the region, alongside outside back Reece Tapine and tighthead prop Archer Holz. Five academy players have also been promoted in the top team.
Fourteen members of the 2021 squad spent time with the Wallabies during this year’s Tri-Nations tournament, with 11 of those men pulling on the gold jersey at some stage during the competition, including debutants Noah Lolesio, Irae Simone and Tom Wright.
On the other end of the experience spectrum, 19 of the 2021 group are 23 years old or younger.
“We’re excited about the makeup of our squad for next season,” said Head Coach Dan McKellar.
“With the age profile of the group, the number of Wallabies we had this year and the fact that the majority of the guys are returning from last season, we’re in a good place to give ourselves a chance to compete again next year.
“The exciting thing for the coaching staff and I is that after a good season last year, there is still a lot of improving we can do, both for the boys individually but as a collective as well.
“We’re proud of what we achieved last season, particularly through the adversity we faced. But we have to look forward now, and with this group, our only goal is to just get better and better every day.”
The Brumbies kick off their season in the opening week of Super Rugby AU with a match against the Western Force on February 20. The game marks the Force’s first home match played in Perth since March 2020.
Forwards: Folau Fainga’a, Lachlan Lonergan, Connal McInerney, Billy Pollard, Allan Alaalatoa, Archer Holz, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Tom Hooper, Nick Frost, Caderyn Neville, Darcy Swain, James Tucker, Jahrome Brown, Tom Cusack, Luke Reimer, Pete Samu, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini.
Backs: Lachie Albert, Issak Fines, Ryan Lonergan, Nic White, Bayley Kuenzle, Noah Lolesio, Reesjan Pasitoa, Tom Banks, Mack Hansen, Len Ikitau, Solomone Kata, Andy Muirhead, Irae Simone, Reece Tapine, Tom Wright