The news got better for three of Steelform Wanganui’s forwards as Peter Rowe, Lasa Ulukuta and Cole Baldwin were yesterday named in the New Zealand Heartland XV who will tour the Cook Islands next month.
Head coach Kurt McQuilkin, who had a good look at the Wanganui side after coaching King Country against them for the past two weeks, settled on the 24-strong squad for the annual match with NZ Marist XV on November 8, before travelling for two “tests” against the Cook Islands, November 11-14.
It is a recall for Baldwin, who was selected in the 2010-11 Heartland squads, while Lasa Ulukuta and Rowe have been fixtures in the team over the years. Rowe was captain last year and in 2012 on their tour to Samoa.
The strongest representation comes from next weekend’s Meads Cup finalists as Mid-Canterbury and Buller have six and five players respectively. Wairarapa Bush have three in the squad, while King Country and Poverty Bay each have two.
One player each from North Otago, Horowhenua-Kapiti and South Canterbury make up the rest of the team.
“These men are fiercely proud to play for their club and fiercely proud to play for their province,” said McQuilkin.
“We had a large pool of very talented players to choose from so we’ll be putting up a very strong side for the upcoming series.”
McQuilkin said he expected the Cook Island side, who as of September are ranked 46th in the world by the IRB, to be very competitive at home.
“We’re expecting our games in the Cook Islands to be hard and fast and we’ll be playing in hot and sticky conditions.”
NZRFU chairman Brent Impey said the team will be fantastic rugby ambassadors. “It’s important to New Zealand rugby that we support rugby in the Pacific and playing in the Cook Islands is part of that.”
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle