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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Ex­clu­sive By Gavin Mairs

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

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