Scotland’s group of foreign rugby imports is poised to get bigger. Sources in New Zealand last night indicated that Edinburgh have already signed Otago flanker Hugh Blake, while the SRU are chasing Highlanders’ John Hardie. Both have represented New Zealand at age-grade level and qualify to play for Scotland through their grandparents.
Hardie, 26, is the much more experienced of the two, with 44 Super Rugby appearances under his belt. However, reports suggest that the SRU may have to bide its time if it wants him to don a dark blue shirt.
Murrayfield’s original plan was to have Hardie in situ with Edinburgh Rugby in time for the recently finished Autumn Test series. Instead, it looks like the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), fed up with losing players like Gareth Anscombe to Wales, won’t make things easy for Hardie. Instead they will make the flanker play out his Super Rugby contract which runs to July of next year; perilously close to the World Cup which kicks off in September 2015. However, it remains to be seen whether this delay would jeopardise his move to Europe.
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When not playing for the Highlanders, Hardie represents the Southland Stags who play in Invercargill on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. He has won the club’s Player of the Season Award on three separate occasions and would make a useful addition to Edinburgh’s ranks.
Hardie is said to be equally comfortable at No 6 or 7, although he has played most of his recent rugby at openside, while his younger compatriot Blake is an out and out fetcher despite being the taller of the two men. Blake has suffered injury problems which have restricted his game-time but sources say that the youngster has been offered a three-month trial contract.
If both players throw their lot in with Scotland, the twin New Zealand breakaways will be joining a squad that is already fashionably diverse.
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