London - With fifty percent of the competing coaches all hailing from New
Zealand in Warren Gatland (Wales), Joe Schmidt (Ireland) and Vern Cotter
(Scotland), there was already a strong Kiwi feel to this season's Six
But that influence was strengthened with the inclusion on Tuesday in
each of the Scotland and Wales squads by an uncapped New Zealand-born
player not long arrived in their adopted countries in Hugh Blake and
Gareth Anscombe respectively.
Cotter's decision to call-up 22-year-old Edinburgh flank Blake was
particularly notable as the loose forward has yet to play for the club
after arriving in Scotland on a six-year deal last month.
Blake could pack down alongside Blair Cowan, another Kiwi
representing Scotland, with the Scots' native playing resources
stretched thin by an inability to support more than two full-time
professional clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Cotter emphasised the commitment of Blake - qualified through his
Scottish grandparents - to the Dark Blues by saying: "We have to be
open-minded about this. Hugh's got Scottish ancestry and he is very
proud of it.
"Hugh is a very good player and highly rated in New Zealand. He's a
very skilful player and generally gets two to three turnovers a game.
"He's played against Richie McCaw and the best players in the world - and he's available for Scotland."
World champions New Zealand have long produced more good players than can be accommodated by the All Blacks.
There was uproar when the 'Grannygate' scandal of 2000 saw the Wales
careers of New Zealand-born duo Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson halted
after it was discovered they did not, in fact, possess a Welsh
The call-up into the Test squad of Anscombe, 23, is less contentious
on eligibility grounds given the mother of the former Auckland and
Chiefs stand-off is Welsh.
But there may still be some unease in Wales, where rugby remains the
national sport and which prides itself on its fly-halves especially,
that Anscombe has been chosen after just nine appearances for Cardiff
His selection could well spell the end of the Wales career of
Neath-born James Hook who, in fairness, has long been out of favour
during Gatland's reign.
Gatland said it was talking to former New Zealand fly-half Wayne
Smith, now set to rejoin the All Blacks coaching staff after helping
them win the 2011 World Cup, that persuaded him of Anscombe's quality.
"I had a good chat to Wayne Smith about him, and Wayne couldn't speak
more highly," Gatland said. "When that recommendation comes from
someone like Wayne Smith, you've got to take notice of that."
Gatland added: "I met with Gareth here (in Wales) with his dad a bit longer than 12 months ago. We sat down and had a chat.
"With his mother being born in Cardiff, we knew that he was an option for Wales, and the discussion was a very general one.
"There was no pressure from us in terms of his declaration, and if he
wanted to go back to New Zealand, play Super Rugby and continue the
dreams and aspirations to be in the All Blacks, I didn't have a problem
with that," the Wales boss explained.
"He went back and had another season with the Chiefs, and I think
Gareth then thought that for him to fulfil his dream of playing
international rugby, the best opportunity for him was to come to the
Blues and make himself for Wales in the short term, and hopefully the