Following a year hiatus due to COVID-19, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has today confirmed the New Zealand Heartland XV will be back in 2021, with South Canterbury’s Nigel Walsh named as Head Coach.
Joining Walsh at the helm as Assistant Coach is Steelform Whanganui Assistant Coach, Jason Hamlin, who is the second Whanganui coach to be involved with the team since its establishment in 1988.
NZR also confirmed the appointment of Mid Canterbury’s Tony Harrison as Team Manager. Harrison is no stranger to the New Zealand Heartland XV, having previously managed the team in 2016 and 2017.
NZR’s General Manager of Community Rugby, Steve Lancaster, said this year’s coaching team provided the depth and experience required to lead a strong side.
“This season hasn’t been without it’s challenges thanks to ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19, but it has been fantastic to see the depth of rugby talent in this year’s Heartland Championship, in both players and the coaching and management.
“We’re very happy with our appointments for the New Zealand Heartland XV and I’m looking forward to seeing Nigel and Jason lead a successful 2021 campaign.”
Walsh said he was thrilled to be appointed as Head Coach and he was looking forward to tackling the challenge and selecting his side in the coming weeks.
“I’ve been really impressed by the talent on show in this year’s Bunnings Heartland Championship and it’s obvious that we have a great pool of players to select from.
“Between Jason and I we have both Islands covered, and we have eyes and ears on the ground at each game on the lookout for standout players, so I’m confident we’re well placed to identify the best players for this year’s squad.”
The 2021 New Zealand Heartland team will be named next month, following round eight of the Bunnings Heartland Championship. Pending COVID-19 Alert Levels, the 2021 side will assemble in Taupo on 2 December, where they’ll take part in a five-day camp, culminating in a fixture against New Zealand Barbarians on Sunday 5 December.