Auckland name Japanese scrum-half

Date published: July 28 2015

Auckland head coach Paul Feeney has named a 31-man squad for 2015's ITM Cup season and is excited that 14 of those players are from club rugby.

16 players will join the Auckland squad from Super Rugby, with the remaining 14 having played club rugby this year to the excitement of Feeney.

"It goes to show how important club rugby is with almost half of our squad selected from that competition," the head coach told Auckland's website.

"As a coaching group we are excited about the young talent in this squad, with such an enthusiastic group of players we couldn't ask for much more."

Bryce Heem, Michael Fatialofa and Calvary Fonoti all return to Auckland and will play in the blue and white hoops for the first time at this level.

They are joined by 11 players set to make their provincial debut in 2015.

"We had a number of players head overseas after last season and I believe we have recruited well," added Feeney.

Ponsonby scrum-half Kaito Shigeno will get a taste of provincial rugby for the first time, coming to New Zealand from Japan earlier this year.

"Both our contracted half-backs picked up shoulder injuries, so we had to look at club rugby. Kaito's passing and kicking game meant he was a player we couldn't ignore," Feeney explained.

Shigeno hails from Japanese club NEC and originally came to Auckland to take part in the Union's International Academy.

With three young props named in the squad, Feeney said he needed to find an experienced prop to balance the front-row.

"Jono Owen comes to us from playing Top 14 in France and previous to that he's had three seasons of Super Rugby in Australia," he said.

"We've got three young props who have never played at this level and they will benefit a lot from Jono, Ofa and Sam's experience."

2015 Auckland ITM Cup squad:

Forwards: Jono Owen, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Sam Prattley, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Tom McHugh, Marcel Renata, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Kurt Eklund, Liaki Moli, Scott Scrafton, William Lloyd, Michael Fatialofa, Joe Edwards, Blake Gibson, Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray, Mitchell Karpik, Airi Hunt, Sean Polwart, Akira Ioane. 

Backs: Kaito Shigeno, Jono Hickey, Leon Fukofuka, Calvary Fonoti, Simon Hickey, Mitchell Hunt, Vince Aso, Rieko Ioane, Ben Lam, Melani Nanai, Bryce Heem, Lolagi Visinia.

Injured: Steven Luatua, Patrick Tuipulotu, TJ Faiane

Currently with the All Blacks: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Jerome Kaino, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala, Charles Piutau.