Jones ponders stunning raid for Auckland No 8 Sotutu – ‘the next All Black sensation’
Super Rugby player reveals he has England qualification Uncapped 21-year-old the talk of restarted season
Eddie Jones is understood to be keen to investigate the international aspirations of Hoskins Sotutu, the Super Rugby sensation, after the Auckland Blues No 8 revealed that he qualifies for England via his mother, The Daily
Telegraph can reveal.
Sotutu has already been hailed as a future All Blacks star after a succession of outstanding performances during the Blues’ unbeaten start to the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, which started last month.
The 21-year-old, however, has now also come on the radar of Jones, who is thought to be keen to establish while Sotutu remains uncapped whether he holds any interest in playing for England.
Sotutu, the son of former Fiji vice-captain and former Blues wing Waisake Sotutu, also has the option of representing the Pacific Island side so could find himself in a threeway battle for his services.
Jones, who is in Japan, has already recruited two players from Super Rugby sides in New Zealand. Centre Piers Francis, who was born and raised in England, was picked for the 2017 tour to Argentina while he was still at the Blues, before he went on to join Northampton. Flanker Brad Shields, who qualified for England via his parents, was selected for the tour of South Africa the following year while he was at the Hurricanes, before he joined Wasps.
Having been born and raised in New Zealand, Sotutu admits he is likely to face a choice over his international future.
“Whatever is next will come,” he said last week. “I’ve got my dad’s Fijian heritage and that Kiwi side and my mum is English as well so I can qualify for an English passport.
“When the decision comes, it will come easy, but for the moment I’m just focusing on the Blues. I’m still learning. I’m taking this as my debut season and trying to find my feet and keep working on my craft.”
To qualify for England, Sotutu would have to commit to a move to the Premiership, and one agent indicated last night there would be a queue of clubs likely to be interested, even though it would involve a financial settlement as he is under contract at the Blues.
There is little wonder he has attracted Jones’s attention. Sotutu has proven himself to be an outstanding footballer during his breakthrough season, demonstrating an extraordinary skill set and dynamism that could be suited to the new high-tempo game that Jones believes could be critical to success in his long-term plans for the 2023 World Cup.
Although at 6ft 4 in and just over 16½ stone he lacks the physical prowess of Billy Vunipola, one 12-metre pass off his left hand to create a try for Mark Telea in horrendous conditions during a 24-12 victory over the Waikato Chiefs last month underscored the growing hype over his ability.
Jones has already experimented with a different style of No 8 by selecting Tom Curry, who plays as a flanker for Sale, there for England during the Six Nations, when Vunipola was injured, before it was halted by the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We’ve decided to go for a different way of playing at No8, without Billy. And that’s a judgment call,” Jones said before the start of the championship.
“You are always looking at a balance between your Nos4 to No8, a balance between ball-running capabilities, defensive capabilities, work-rate capabilities. We have got a view of how we can be most effective in that area without a Billy-type player.”
Sotutu would appear to offer the kind of all-court game that Jones is seeking. In six games this season, he has made 70 carries, beating 23 opponents and making 386 metres for his side.
His line-out work is impressive, while having played as a back during his schooldays, he has also demonstrated a range of kicking ability, creating a try with a grubber kick against the Waratahs before the lockdown and making a clearance kick from the base of a scrum against the Highlanders last week.
Ian Foster, the All Blacks head coach, however, may look to move quickly to settle any issue of his Test credentials by capping him later this year if the international game is able to return.
Sotutu has already represented the New Zealand Secondary Schools side in 2016 before going on to represent the New Zealand Under-20s team two years later and is drawing comparisons in New Zealand with former All Black captain Kieran Read.
‘When the decision comes it will come easy, but for the moment I’m just focusing on the Blues’
Irresistible: Hoskins Sotutu in full flow for Auckland Blues, for whom he is in outstanding form, against Waikato Chiefs