Italy: who are the New Zealanders who wore the blue jersey?

Italy: who are the New Zealanders who wore the blue jersey?
Italy: who are the New Zealanders who wore the blue jersey?

Over the past 20 years, many players have worn the blue jersey after arriving from New Zealand

Italy: who are the New Zealanders who wore the blue jersey? – ph. Sebastiano Pessina

Italy-All Blacks is approaching, and after all New Zealand in the last 20 years has often been part of the blue destiny. Not only in the defeats – sometimes painful, others less so – but also in the contribution that this country has given to our rugby.

From entering the Six Nations to today, many New Zealanders have worn the blue jersey internationally. Some of these have also put together a considerable number of appearances, and then there is Dean Budd who has even worn the captain’s armband on three occasions. In view of Saturday’s match, Stuff recalled all the New Zealanders who played for Italy.

AARON PERSICO (56 caps, 2 destinations, 2000-2006)

Born in New Zealand but of Italian origins (the family was from Massa Lubrense), he was the first New Zealander to represent Italy by kinship. He also played against the All Blacks in the 2003 World Cup, putting together 56 appearances in total. In the palmares also 2 championships (with Viadana and Calvisano) and 2 Italian Cups always with Viadana.

MATT PHILLIPS (14 caps, 3 mete, 2002-2003)

The first New Zealander to play for Italy thanks to the residency criteria: he scored a goal against the All Blacks in the aforementioned world challenge in 2003. In the Bel Paese he also won a Scudetto with Viadana and 2 Italian Cups.

SCOTT PALMER (12 caps, 2 mete 2002-04)

Mainly flanker, but if necessary also number 8, Palmer made his debut in 2002 with John Kirwan on the bench, who then also took him to the world championship. In Italy he won 5 league titles, 4 with Benetton Treviso and one with Petrarca.

RIMA WAKARUA (11 caps, 15 transformations, 22 penalties, 2003-05).

With 99 points, he is the best blue scorer coming from New Zealand. Also selected for the 2003 World Cup, he also played in the first year with Berbizier on the bench, before leaving the national team.

PAUL GRIFFEN (42 caps, 1 try, 1 transformation, 1 penalty, 2004-09)

The blue adventure of the scrum half began in 2004: he was surprisingly excluded from the squad list for the 2007 World Cup, but he also covered the national team jersey in the 2009 Six Nations. He still lives and works in Italy today, he played for 14 years. in Calvisano (with whom he won 4 league titles) and is today the technical commentator of the games of the franchises, first on Dazn and now on Mediaset. He also commented on the matches of the Italian national team in the Autumn Cup, in 2020.

KAINE ROBERTSON (47 caps, 14 mete, 2004-10)

Ala or extreme, in 2004 he wore the national team jersey for the first time. Many years in Viadana – and a Scudetto won in 2002 – and some satisfaction obtained with Italy. In particular, he is remembered for the two goals scored in the historic 2007 victories against Scotland and Wales.

JOSH SOLE (47 caps, 4 mete, 2005-11)

Born in Hamilton to an Italian mother and Scottish father, he grew up in rugby in New Zealand before moving to Italy and wearing the jerseys of Viadana, Aironi and Zebre. He made his debut with the Azzurri in 2005 against Argentina, and then also played in the 2007 World Cup. With Viadana he won an Italian Cup and an Italian Super Cup.

KELLY HAIMONA (11 tests, 7 con, 17 pen, 2014-2016)

He arrives in Italy to play for the Lyons, then goes to Calvisano – with whom he wins the championship – and then to the Zebre. He made his debut in 2014 with the blue shirt against Samoa (scoring 14 points), launched by Brunel, plays the Six Nations 2015 but then gradually goes off the radar, closed by the arrivals of Carlo Canna and Tommaso Allan.

DEAN BUDD (29 caps, 2 mete, 2017-20)

Second and third lines of great quality: he arrives in Treviso in 2012, and he will also be captain of Benetton. He made his debut in the national team in 2017 and in a short time became one of the points of reference, also wearing the captain’s armband on 3 occasions, and in particular in the victory against Canada at the 2019 World Cup, also scoring a goal. He also has time to play the first part of the Six Nations 2020, then interrupted due to a pandemic, before retiring.

JAYDEN HAYWARD (27 caps, 1 meta, 2017-20)

Player of class and quality, extreme role but if necessary he also played center, as at the 2019 World Cup. In New Zealand he wears the Hurricanes and Highlanders jerseys, then plays in the Western Force always in Super Rugby. In 2014 he arrives in Treviso and takes the keys of the backward department of the lions, with whom he plays 96 games and wins the Rainbow Cup in 2021. He debuts in the national team in 2017 and is almost always present until 2020, when he decides to retire from the tests international.


Not only the field, but also the bench. Kieran Crowley is in fact the third New Zealand coach to lead the Italian national team. Before him, Brad Johnstone had led Italy from 2000 to 2002, winning against Scotland and then losing the next 14 games, before passing the baton to John Kirwan who held the reins until 2005.

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