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Dublin: 0 °C Sunday 18 March, 2018

Exiles: The Irishmen making their way in New Zealand rugby

‘They encourage offloads… It’s skills before size over here.’


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THERE IS NO famous tradition of Irish players heading to New Zealand in order to further their rugby careers, although the legendary John Hayes had a stint there as a 21-year-old.

This year, however, a handful of young Irishmen have featured in New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup and Heartland Championship.

Tighthead prop Oli Jager, a Leinster Schools Senior Cup winner with Blackrock College in 2013, has played six times for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup, helping them into the semi-finals.

Former Ireland U20 international Harrison Brewer, a centre during his time with Leinster’s academy, has returned to the back row to break into the Manawatu Turbos team in the same competition.

Lock Gavin Thornbury, another man who came through the Leinster system and played for Ireland at U20 level, has helped Wanganui into the semi-finals of the Meads Cup, having excelled in their Heartland Championship campaign.

Out-half Steve Crosbie, a team-mate of Thornbury and Brewer’s at Leinster, was also with Wanganui, before Munster came calling with a short-term contract offer.

Jager, Brewer and Thornbury told us about their experiences of New Zealand rugby.

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