Blues standout Hoskins Sotutu — a man in demand and All Black in waiting

Blues No 8 Hoskins Sotutu has been a standout through the disrupted 2020 Super Rugby season. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

OPINION: Someone tell Eddie he’s dreaming. Hoskins Sotutu will soon have a cosy new national contract in his back-pocket and will almost certainly be an All Black soon after, which will mean England rugby can continue its search for an athletic, ball-playing, hard-hitting No 8 elsewhere.

Reports out of the UK have suggested that England coach Eddie Jones is “keen” on Sotutu who is in the midst of an eye-catching sophomore campaign for the resurgent Blues in Super Rugby, both pre and post the Covid-19 shutdown.

Jones’ interest is only natural, if a little mischievous. Sotutu, born in New Zealand and educated at Auckland’s Sacred Heart College, also has links to both Fiji and England through his father’s and mother’s heritage respectively. Naturally, given the soon-to-turn 22-year-old has emerged as one of the big movers of this unprecedented 2020 season, both of those nations now have him on their radar.

But so, too, you can be sure do New Zealand. As it happens Ian Foster needs a No 8 to replace departed skipper Kieran Read when test rugby eventually resumes, and right now Sotutu – son of Blues and Fiji wing Waisake – must sit slap-bang at the top of his list of contenders.

Sotutu did nothing to dissuade offshore interest recently when he admitted that he has his options at the international level, though it was not his focus at present. He highlighted his Fiji and Welsh qualification.

But the ball is in New Zealand’s court. The impressive Aucklander, who evokes images of All Blacks great Zinzan Brooke with his mix of power and panache, is understood to be just days away from confirming a new two-year deal with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues. The Auckland franchise, which appears to be building something special, will have little interest in cutting him loose to join an English club – a necessity if he’s to be part of Jones’ national setup.

Foster can put the whole thing to bed when he next selects an All Blacks lineup. That’s likely to be for October’s mooted series against the Wallabies, which might be the only test rugby the New Zealanders play in 2020 if Covid continues to rage around the world and hammer at our borders.

We should get an early glimpse at his intentions when the lineups are announced for the North-South clash at Eden Park on August 29. Sotutu is odds-on to be the North No 8, and if he is selected in that role, possibly alongside incumbent flankers Sam Cane and Ardie Savea, it would offer a first look at Foster’s potential new loose trio.

Everything points to the impressive youngster, rocking the peroxide ‘do, getting fast-tracked to the highest level at the first possible opportunity.

 

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