Former All Blacks scrumhalf Alby Mathewson has joined Australia’s Western Force for next year’s Super Rugby season, the second time the 26-year-old has had to move franchises due to the presence of World Cup winner Piri Weepu.
Mathewson, who appeared in four Tests for the All Blacks in 2010, previously moved from the Wellington Hurricanes to the Auckland Blues after finding his playing time restricted by Weepu at Super Rugby and provincial level.
However, Weepu defected to Auckland this year after Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett embarked on a rebuilding program last year and while the scrumhalf was offered a contract to stay, he opted to move north to New Zealand’s largest city.
That move, despite Weepu’s well-publicized battles with his weight and fitness during this year’s Super Rugby season, again restricted Mathewson’s playing opportunities.
A new generation of scrumhalves, including Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and T.J. Perenara, also moved into national prominence this season and New Zealand’s 2010 Super Rugby Player of the Year jumped at the opportunity to move to Australia.
Mathewson’s recruitment will be a boost for the Force, who are rebuilding after several high-profile exits in recent years and were seeking a scrumhalf after Will Genia flip-flopped on heading to Perth and re-signed with the Queensland Reds earlier this season.
Former New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Foley will also join the team next season after Richard Graham was sacked when he said he would take over from Ewen McKenzie at the Reds next year.
The Force have never finished higher than seventh since their debut in Super Rugby in 2006 and were second to last this season, and Mathewson said being part of a rebuilding project had excited him.