All Blacks hooker Coles to stay in NZ

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles says playing overseas has never been an option for him after signing a new long-term deal with New Zealand Rugby.

The 28-year-old, capped 27 times by the All Blacks, agreed a new four-year contract to keep him in New Zealand and with his Super Rugby franchise the Hurricanes through to 2019.

His deal eclipses a former contract which was set to expire at the end of 2016.

“I’m definitely not at the stage where I want to head overseas yet,” he said.

“Both teams mean a huge deal to me and I really want to play for a club, and team, that I have that strong connection with.

“My family and friends are also close by which is still important to me.”

Coles’ deal mirrors that of two other key All Blacks – wing Julian Savea and lock Brodie Retallick – who last week recommitted to New Zealand for the same tenure.

The dynamic hooker has become an important member of the Test team following the retirement of Andrew Hore and the waning powers of another veteran, Keven Mealamu.

The next tier of hookers are relatively inexperienced, with a number of young contenders vying for the third spot at this year’s World Cup behind first-choice Coles and Mealamu.

It took some time for Coles to make his Test breakthrough, having begun playing for Wellington in 2007 and the Hurricanes two years later.

He made four appearances off the reserves bench on the All Blacks’ season-ending tour of Europe in 2012 and was largely a back-up option in 2013 before claiming first-choice status last year.

Coles has played 76 games for the Hurricanes, who are runaway competition leaders this season.

He says they have the potential to be strong contenders over coming seasons.

“We’ve got some awesome young guys coming through, so I’d really like to contribute in some way to help them reach their full potential for the club to continue on being successful.”

Hurricanes forwards coach Richard Watt says having Coles commit his future is a major boost for New Zealand Rugby.

“It’s also a great reward for a guy who’s put in a lot of hard work to get where he is as the number one hooker in the country.”

Coles has returned to full fitness after missing six games this season with elbow and calf injuries.

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