Seven locals in national squad

Tuesday June 26, 2018 Written by Published in Rugby Union
Tokerau Raru, left, is one of the local players in the Cook Islands national rugby squad. The team underwent another strenuous training session at Victoria Park yesterday. 18062521 Tokerau Raru, left, is one of the local players in the Cook Islands national rugby squad. The team underwent another strenuous training session at Victoria Park yesterday. 18062521

Seven local players have been included in the initial 27-member Cook Islands national rugby squad for the Rugby World Cup qualifying series against Hong Kong, starting this Saturday at the BCI Stadium.

The team will be trimmed to 23 by coach Stan Wright and his coaching team by Friday.

The Rarotonga-based players in the squad include James Kora, Rob Heather, Tokerau Raru, Tama Nicholas, Ozzie Joseph, Matamanea Matapakia and Jamian Iroa.

The remainder of the squad is comprised of overseas-based players, dominated by those based in New Zealand.

The squad was finalised after the CIRU Probables versus Possibles match on Saturday at the stadium.

“Fitness and work rate of the players were the main things considered, and that’s how they sort of pulled the players into the squad in the first place,” said Cam Kilgour, the national team manager.

“The selection was done in a three-tier system – Super Rugby, the UK and French competition, then it went to Mitre 10 Cup or NRC in Australia and then to the premier rugby in Rarotonga, Australia and New Zealand.

“There are a number of players who have missed out. They were just unlucky.”

Kilgour said there were some players who were not part of the initial squad but impressed the coaches during the trial on Saturday.

“There were a couple of players that weren’t in the mix and stood up and have now taken probably number one spot in the (respective) position(s), including one of the local boys,” he said.

“Within the last two months, there has been an impressive amount of training and fitness that everybody has put in to be a part of this squad.

“It’s really an exciting lot of players from all over the world. A number of former Cook Islands rugby players have said to me that this is probably the strongest Cook Islands side since the 90s, so that’s exciting.”

The national side will be led by Otago captain Sam Anderson-Heather.

Cook Islands squad

Sam Anderson Heather (c), AJ Campbell, James Pakoti, James Kora, Shahn Eru, Rob Heather, Eru Wano, Tyrone Viiga, Tui Paitai, Matt Mullany, Tai Marsters, Tokerau Raru, Tama Nicholas, Alex Matapo, Ozzie Joseph, Reece Joyce, Matamanea Matapakia, Gene Te Amo, Jamian Iroa, Marnus Hanley, Te Ara Henderson, Walter Koteka, Josh Tinomana, Brynn Uriarau, Oisin Clarken, Greg Mullany, Corry Tearoa.

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