A new chapter in the history of provincial rugby was announced today – with a name change for the former New Zealand Divisional XV and the naming of the squad to tour Argentina.
The team will now be known as the New Zealand Heartland XV and reflects this year’s change to the new AA Rewards Heartland Championship.
Coach Ross Cooper today named a squad of 26 for the three-match tour. The team will play matches against provincial side Salta, 2005 Division A champions Tucuman and Argentina A.
The squad includes seven players from Wairarapa Bush and six players each from Wanganui and Poverty Bay, three each from North Otago and Thames Valley and one from King Country.
Cooper said he was impressed with the standard of rugby in the AA Rewards Heartland Championship.
“The games were competitive and we saw a lot of close encounters. The AA Rewards Heartland Championship has certainly given a new group of players the opportunity to enter national team selection,” Cooper said.
“We believe the squad is well-balanced and players who performed consistently well have been rewarded. The selectors considered combinations that worked well during the championship and that is reflected in our selections,” Cooper added.
In looking ahead to the three-match tour, Cooper said the trip represented an exciting challenge.
“Argentina is uncharted waters for us. We know that Argentinean sides are traditionally strong in the forwards and the challenge for us is to match that so we will have to play smart rugby,” he said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby Union Deputy Chief Executive Steve Tew said the name change reflected a desire to recognise the changing face of New Zealand rugby and ensure the team remained relevant and attractive to players in the new AA Rewards Heartland Championship.
“Every New Zealand rugby player aspires to wear a black jersey. The New Zealand Heartland XV provides a valuable opportunity for another group of players to do so,” Tew said.
“It’s an incentive for players living and playing in our heartland provinces and it allows us to recognise the talent and commitment on show in the AA Rewards Heartland Championship,” he added.
New Zealand Heartland XV tour squad: Daniel Aldworth (Wanganui), Aarin Dunster (King Country), William Hallgarth (Poverty Bay), Joseph Harwood (Wairarapa Bush), Sam Henderson (Wairarapa Bush), Dylan Higgison (Wairarapa Bush), Sylvanus Iro (Wairarapa Bush), Karne Kaufana (North Otago), Shane Leach (Poverty Bay), Scott Leighton (Poverty Bay), Hamish McKenzie (Wairarapa Bush), Leon Mason (Wanganui), Scott Mayhew (North Otago), Daniel Morath (Poverty Bay), Sheldon O’Hagan (Wanganui), Hayden Rasmussen (Thames Valley), Patrick Rimene (Wairarapa Bush), Nathan Riwai-Couch (Wairarapa Bush), Peter Rowe (Wanganui), Tom Solomon (Poverty Bay), Kahu Tamatea (Poverty Bay), Ryan Tohaia (Thames Valley), Michael Thompson (Wanganui), Faaitu Tuamoheloa (North Otago), Logan Vaughan (Wanganui), Gene Waller (Thames Valley)
New Zealand Heartland XV schedule (kick off times are local)
Wednesday 1 November: v Salta at Salta at 9.00pm
Sunday 5 November: v Tucuman at Tucuman at 6.00pm
Saturday 11 November: v Argentina A at Rosario at 5.30pm