Two highly promising young prospects, Dalton Papalii and Caleb Clarke, will join the Blues in the Investec Super Rugby next year.
Papalii has already forged a close involvement with the Blues, as a graduate of the club’s Under-17 and Under-18 programmes before moving on to play for the Blues Under-20 and A teams for the last two years, captaining the Under 20s in both years.
A former St Kentigern College captain led the team to the Auckland 1A Championship in 2015, captained the Auckland Under-19 side in 2016 and was part of the New Zealand Under-20 side for two years, including their World Championship victory this year.
Papalii, who can play in all three loose forward positions, came through the Blues apprenticeship programme and was one of the new ITC (Interim Training Contract) recipients this year.
Clarke, son of Blues and All Black midfielder Eroni Clarke, has also come through the Blues development programme.
Part of the Mt Albert Grammar national championship winning side from 2016, the big winger was a star performer for the New Zealand Under-20s World Cup victory this year.
He was part of the Blues Under-18 side and the New Zealand Secondary Schools in 2015 and 2016, and the Blues development programmes for Under-17, Under-18 and this year in the Under-20 and the Blues A team.
Like Papalii, Clarke has been part of the Blues apprenticeship programme in 2017 and will now step up into a full contract for 2018.
“We continue to work very hard on developing and retaining our best talent, with a focus on young players with the right attitude to become successful professionals who have a passion for the Blues,” said Blues High Performance Manager, Tony Hanks.
“Both of these two players not only have proven ability on the field, they are both young men with character and integrity who have also proven to be leaders to this point in their careers.
“The Blues are excited to have both young players on board.