Blues head coach Leon MacDonald says cross-code star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be available for selection from round one of next year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
Tuivasa-Sheck, the former NRL sensation who left the New Zealand Warriors to pursue a two-year deal with the Blues earlier this year, was named in the Auckland-based side’s squad for 2022 on Monday.
The 28-year-old was one of many headline names in MacDonald’s squad as the Blues prepare to clinch back-to-back titles for the first time since 1997 after ending an 18-year title-less drought by winning Super Rugby Trans-Tasman in June.
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The addition of Tuivasa-Sheck – who won an NRL Premiership, the 2018 Dally M Medal and played almost 200 NRL matches – will certainly help MacDonald and the Blues in their bid for more silverware.
That quest kicks-off on February 18 when they host the Fijian Drua, one of two new expansions sides in the revamped competition, at Eden Park, a match of which MacDonald said Tuivasa-Sheck will be in selection contention for.
“In his mind, he’s definitely going to be ready to go in round one. It’s about trying to pull him back instead of push him forward. He’s pretty determined and excited,” MacDonald told media on Monday.
“I think you speak to any players and the coaches, we’re a little bit blown away by how quickly he’s taken to the game. It’s a little bit like he’s never left it. His detail in his preparation is really impressive and his skill set is right up there.
“We thought it might take a while to get him to understand our skill set versus league, with the catch-and-pass, kicking, etcetera, but Roger’s a real pro. He’s been working really hard at that, so he’ll be like the rest of the squad.
“We’re doing some training now, but we’ll be building him up through the next two or three months, so, pre-season one [first pre-season match], he’ll be playing for the Blues, injury permitting, along with everyone in the squad and he’ll be trying to push for that game one starting spot.
“That’s how we’ll be progressing with him, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. He’s just going to put his hand up like everybody else and really try and push for that starting spot in game one.”