Auckland – The Blues announced on Wednesday that Counties Manukau second-row Jimmy Tupou will join them in 2017.
Tupou will be joined by former Blues Under-18 player Alex Hodgman, with both players moving back north from the Crusaders.
Tupou, 23, has earned 25 Super Rugby caps for the Crusaders since 2013 and played 39 times for Counties Manukau. Standing 1.96m and 107kg, he has played both lock and loose forward but wants to specialise in the second row.
“I see myself as a lock that can play in the loose forwards,” Tupou told the Blues’ official website.
“I have that history in the back row and can cover that if needed.”
He played under Tana Umaga at Counties Manukau, with the Blues head coach delighted to welcome him back to Auckland.
“Jimmy is an excellent athlete who is both skilled and physical,” said Umaga.
“With the loss of Josh Bekhuis overseas, there’s an opportunity for Jimmy to battle for a starting spot with our other current locks.
Hodgman, formerly from Mt Albert Grammar and a graduate of the Blues Under-18 programme, has spent two seasons at the Crusaders.
The 22-year-old, who is 1.90m and 115kg, played in two Under-20 World Cups for Fiji in 2012 and New Zealand in 2013 before being offered a place in the Crusaders Wider Training Squad in 2015. He was promoted to a full contract this year, playing five times for the Crusaders.
“I am really excited about the opportunities this brings.
“I am able to return home to be around my family and to play for the Blues,” Hodgman said. “I have had good learnings at the Crusaders and now I have opportunities to further myself.”
Umaga believes Hodgman is a prop for the future.
“Alex played in the Blues Under-18 squad with the likes of Patrick Tuipulotu and Joe Edwards and is a young man with a bright future who has the opportunity to learn the game from the likes of Charlie Faumuina and Ofa Tu’ungafasi,” he explained.
“It is good to be able to offer opportunities for players to return to the region.”
Umaga said the Blues has a young squad with an average age of 24 years with around 80 percent of the current squad from within the Blues region.