O'Connor back to boost Hawke's Bay

Brendan OConnor 1566174753

He has continued a recent trend which has seen players who have gone overseas earlier in their careers returning to play out their careers in New Zealand.

O'Connor, who made his first-class debut with Canterbury in 2010 and who played 17 times for the red-and-blacks, had two games for the Crusaders in 2012, before joining Hawke's Bay for three seasons in 2013.

He made 31 appearances at first-class level for Hawke's Bay while also playing 41 times for the Blues in Investec Super Rugby between 2013-15.

In late-2015 he joined the Leicester Tigers in England and made 73 appearances for them over four seasons. They twice reached the semifinals of the Premiership but in the last two seasons slipped down the ladder to be 11th this year. They won the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2016-17.

Born in Gisborne and a product of Gisborne Boys' High School, O'Connor was in the New Zealand Under-20s side in 2009.

He told the Leicester Mercury, "Playing and living in Hawke's Bay was a real highlight in my playing career and I'm excited to be able to return and play in the black and white hoops.

"I will be doing everything asked of me to help the Magpies and secure a successful campaign."

Hawke's Bay coach Mark Ozich said: "We're extremely honoured he chose to return to the Magpies over many other unions who were chasing him for his services.

"He'll certainly add to our depth across our loose forwards and provide vital leadership in what looms as an exciting and tough season ahead."

Having introduced 17 players to first-class rugby last season in which they reaching the Championship semi-finals, only to lose to a late penalty goal by Otago, Hawke's Bay will be looking to build on that effort in which they scored a record 46 tries since the competition was restructured in 2006.

Hawke's Bay's Mitre 10 Cup season opens on August 11 when the play Manawatu in Palmerston North.

Brendan OConnor 1566174753