The Blues have today announced that England international Joe Marchant will play the 2020 Investec Super Rugby competition for the club.
The 23-year-old back has recently signed a long-term extension with the Harlequins club that includes a sabbatical leave that will enable him to experience a long-held ambition to play for a New Zealand team in the Investec Super Rugby competition.
Marchant‘s signing bolsters the Blues back options and balances the absence of Caleb Clarke who has been released by the Blues to join the New Zealand Sevens’ Tokyo Olympic programme.
The signing of Marchant strengthens ties between the Blues and Harlequins and reinforces the formal relationship New Zealand Rugby has established with the English Premiership club.
Head coach Leon MacDonald and inside back Harry Plummer have both spent time with Harlequins as has Blues General Manager High Performance, Tony Hanks.
“The Blues are excited to be part of this unique arrangement and we want to thank the Harlequins for allowing it to happen,” said Hanks.
“New Zealand has developed innovative ways to retain and invigorate our best talent, and sabbatical clauses have become one of those tools to retain our best talent long-term. It’s fantastic to be part of a similar arrangement in reverse for such a promising young English player.
“Joe has impressed us on and off the field and we look forward to him joining us in January. We are confident that he will learn from his experience in Super Rugby and certainly our players, especially our young backs, will greatly appreciate learning from him.”
Harlequins Head of Rugby Paul Gustard added: “We pride ourselves at the Club at treating people as individuals and helping them be the best version of themselves. Joe has had a long-standing ambition to play Super Rugby and with our strong connection with NZ rugby we are pleased we can help facilitate this ambition.”
Looking ahead to the move, Marchant said: “Firstly I could not be more grateful to Harlequins for allowing me this opportunity to expand and grow my game. The Club has supported me every step of the way in my career to date and proven that Harlequins is still willing to support my growth as an individual.
“I love Harlequins, so I am delighted to have signed a three-year contract extension which was a primary concern for me. I am exceptionally thankful to Gussy and the management for helping give me the chance to test myself in a league I have always wanted to play in whilst I am in my prime.
“I am really excited to be given the chance to experience playing in Super Rugby. I am sure that I will learn a lot and I can’t wait to bring my learnings back to the Club.”
Marchant has been an England Under-18 and Under-20 international and played three times for England, including a starring role in their Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Italy. He has been a first-team regular for Harlequins in recent seasons, already amassing 85 games for the club.