The Highlanders' latest recruit, Nehe Milner-Skudder, is eager to get started as Super Rugby Aotearoa fast approaches.
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According to the All Blacks' official website, it was announced last week that Milner-Skudder would be joining the southern club for the revamped local competition. He joined the squad earlier in the week as he continues to rehabilitate his shoulder.
The 29-year-old sat down with former team-mate Ardie Savea on his podcast where he spoke about his decision to move down south.
“I was hoping to make the announcement on my own terms, but in this day and age with the media and scoops it didn’t work that way, but it doesn’t take way from the excitement and the amazing feeling that it is a fresh start and new opportunity for myself, wife and family.
“I’m really stoked. The Landers club have an amazing culture and awesome set up for me with where I’m at in my career and what’s happened over the last couple of years. I’m chomping at the bit to get there and get stuck in.”
A 13-Test All Black, Milner-Skudder has had a horror run with injuries over the last five years. He hasn’t played a game since the 2018 All Blacks Test against Japan in Tokyo. He said he’s had an extremely tough few years.
“I had my first shoulder reconstruction back in 2016. The last 4 or 5 years have been up and down with injury and setback after setback. At the same time, the adversity you go through and all the struggles allow you to grow as a person. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck and I wasn’t in some dark places, but I’ve come through all these tough times with a better understanding of myself and it’s put things into perspective.”
The talented wing, who was the World Rugby Breakout Player of the Year in 2015, had signed with Toulon in France, but was unable to take up his contract because of ongoing shoulder issues. Milner-Skudder has been with the Hurricanes since making the wider training squad in 2014. He’s gone onto play 35 games and said the decision to move on from the club he loves so much was difficult.
“That’s something we always talk about playing rugby is those connections and relationships you build. I’ve been very fortunate to spend six seasons at the Hurricanes and I have so much respect and love for them and everything they have done for me and my whanau. Even just giving me the opportunity to have a crack at this level and being part of something special.
“That 2015 year still stings a little bit and the fact that the Landers beat us in that final will create a few conversation starters going down to Dunedin, but that said I feel like I can move with some relationships in a good space and catch some old foes and friends.”
When it comes to playing under the roof in Dunedin on a regular basis, it’s something Milner-Skudder is pumped about.
“People say you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, but when it comes to playing at the Cake Tin in all the wind and what not, it will be a nice feeling not to have to check the weather forecast before games.”
Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off on Saturday, 13 June when the Highlanders host the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.