Heartland squad naming delayed

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North Otago coach Nigel Walsh is delaying the final naming of his squad to give players every chance to earn selection.

Walsh will not reveal who has made the cut for the Heartland Championship until after a pre-season game against Otago Country in Wanaka on August 19.

Before that, a Selection XV will play the Canterbury Country Colts this weekend, and players not involved in that game will take part in a training camp.

“There are still opportunities to force our hand,” Walsh said.

Nigel Walsh

“There’s a lot of competition for places and a bit of depth across the board, so we want to give guys every opportunity.”

There has been talk of former North Otago captain Josh Clark returning as a loan player, possibly to be joined by former New Zealand Schools fullback Josh Buchan as a player of origin, for the Heartland Championship, which starts on August 26.

Walsh was tight-lipped when asked if loan players had been signed.

“We’ve talked to five or so players, and we’ve got some strong possibilities.”

Walsh was in the stands for the Citizens Shield final and enjoyed the competitiveness of the final game of the club season.

“Both clubs really took it to each other and it could have gone either way.

“Valley really took it to Old Boys.

“They had their opportunities but couldn’t quite capitalise on them, but there certainly wasn’t a lot between the two teams.”

The overall standard of premier rugby had been excellent, Walsh said.

“All the clubs have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and bringing in new players.

“The whole standard of footy has lifted this year across the six clubs, and that’s very positive.”