'It's cool to be involved again' - Ben Afeaki returns to Super Rugby as Blues scrum coach

Former All Blacks prop Ben Afeaki will return to Super Rugby as the Blues scrum coach after receiving a surprising a call from head coach Tana Umaga.

Afeaki retired from rugby in 2015 after a sickening head clash with Chiefs teammate Brodie Retallick in 2014.

The 29-year-old admitted he was taken back by Umaga's offer.

"I was a bit surprised," said Afeaki.

"I helped out with Harbour the last couple of years, previous to that I did the Harbour U19s as scrum coach."

The former Chiefs prop said he was happy to be around the sport as a mentor.

"I was doing it more for a bit of fun and really enjoyed it helping the boys out and watching the boys grow," he said.

"When Tana called up I was a bit shocked, I was pretty honest with him saying that 'I don't know if I'm up for it'".

After much thought about the offer from Umaga, Afeaki said he couldn't let the opportunity pass him by.

"I had a think about it and thought what a great opportunity."

He said he has been in talks with All Blacks scrummaging expert Mike Cron, who has been more than glad to give him a few pointers in his new role with the Auckland Super Rugby franchise.

"I've talked to him a number of times and he has been very supportive.

"I'm looking forward to it and it's cool to be involved again."

Afeaki played one Test for the All Blacks, but walked away from the game four years ago after a sickening head clash. Source: 1 NEWS


Augustine Pulu named Blues captain for 2018

Blues coach Tana Umaga has sprung his first surprise ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season, naming halfback Augustine Pulu as his side's new captain.

Pulu, 27, who joined the Blues from the Chiefs at the beginning of 2017, replaces James Parsons at the helm of the Auckland side.

With Parsons' ongoing injury issues and Jerome Kaino unavailable for the beginning of pre-season, Umaga says that it was important that his new skipper be available throughout his team's entire preparation campaign.

"Of course both James and Jerome will continue to play invaluable leadership roles in this team and will be key contributors in all aspects," Umaga said.

"Augie has proven captaincy experience in the Mitre 10 Cup and will add a fresh spark to the team."

Former All Blacks prop Ben Afeaki was also announced as the Blues' new scrum coach for 2018.

The Blues begin their pre-season in Auckland today, minus their All Blacks stars returning from their Northern Hemisphere tour.

Augustine Pulu of the Blues celebrates after scoring a try. Super Rugby match, Blues v Bulls at QBE Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 25 March 2017 © Copyright Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / www.photosport.nz
Augustine Pulu of the Blues celebrates after scoring a try against the Bulls. Source: Photosport



Wales call up former Blues centre Hadleigh Parkes for Test debut

Former Blues and Hurricanes centre Hadleigh Parkes has become the latest Kiwi to trade the silver fern for the Welsh dragon, named to make his international debut against South Africa in Cardiff on Sunday.

Parkes, 30, qualifies to represent Wales through residency, having played under former Auckland coach Wayne Pivac's Scarletts side since 2014.

Coincidentally, the match on Sunday (NZT) will be the exact day that Parkes qualifies to represent Wales, coming exactly three years since his move from New Zealand.

"We have spoken about exposing the squad to Test match rugby and this weekend is a great opportunity for Hadleigh to earn his first cap," coach Warren Gatland said.

Parkes joins a long list of Kiwis to represent Northern Hemisphere sides, with former Chiefs star Bundee Aki also making his international debut for Ireland earlier this season.

Wales are seeking just their fourth win in their history against the Springboks, most recently coming in 2016 - also in Cardiff. 

Hadleigh Parkes dives in for a try for Auckland.
Hadleigh Parkes dives in for a try for Auckland. Source: Photosport