Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan has named an exciting crop of up-and-comers in his Wider Training Group for 2013.
Pita Ahki, Lolagi Visinia, Joe Edwards, Albert Nikoro and Sean Polwart have all been selected and will join the Blues†full-time when pre-season training commences on Monday.
“We were initially concerned because last season there were 40 players used through injury, but at the end of the day I believe we’ve taken the courageous route and we’ve picked some real excitement machines with huge upside and no experience,” Kirwan said.
“The nice thing about all these guys is they’re good enough to be great and that’s their challenge. I think the catch cry for this group is turning their potential into a reality.”
At just 22-years-old, Auckland flanker Sean Polwart is the elder statesman of the group, having made five appearances for the Blues.
All the other players have only one season of provincial rugby under their belts, with Visinia having also played for New Zealand Sevens and Ahki representing New Zealand at this year’s Junior World Championship.
“The most important thing I said to them was ‘boys this is your football team, we need you to show respect for your elders but when you cross the white line I’m expecting you to step up and play Super Rugby’ so it’s a big ask but they’re all incredibly excited about it,” Kirwan said.
Pita Ahki (North Harbour) Midfield Back
Pita has special feet, he can really light things up and is still learning the game with North Harbour. I think he’s going to be special.
Lolagi Visinia (Auckland) Wing / Fullback
He’s a big, strong Samoan boy who has a cheeky smile and is really excited about the opportunity. He’s another talented guy who has come through our system.
Joe Edwards (Auckland) Number 8
Joe is a special young man, he’s 19 going on 25 and we think he’s got captaincy material about him.
Albert Nikoro (Auckland) Utility back
Albert is fast, has a good step, attacks the defensive line hard and kicks the rugby ball a long way.
Sean Polwart (Auckland) Flanker
I think he’s a bit of a late developer. I thought he was a little bit one dimensional earlier in the season but through game time changed his game and started dominating in other areas. He carried the ball really well and was strong over the ball which was his strength to start with and is starting to use his legs in the tackle so he’s just one of those later developers in a position that is very difficult. I think he’s the type of guy that will keep getting better and better.