DAN Wells was in need of a change. New town. New rugby environment.
A Kiwi, he had just represented Northland at the national sevens championships – the platform from which the New Zealand squad for the IRB world sevens circuit is selected.
There was talk of a place in the Northland ITM Cup program but Wells had heard that line before.
He looked at an opportunity in Ireland before Newcastle University entered the equation.
Wells is one of six internationals recruited by the Students through the support of the McCloy Group.
The 26-year-old didn’t just pack a bag and jump on a plane. He and partner, Steph Haynes, sold their house in Whangarei, where he was a builder, and relocated stock, lock and barrel to Newcastle.
“It was a bit of a gamble,” Wells said. “We have fallen in love with Newcastle. It is easy to get around and the beaches are beautiful. We plan to settle down here.”
Apart from Wells, hooker Luke Harwood (Wales), No.8 Jack Cooke (Ireland), centres Fausto Carpini (Argentina) and Nelson Gomes (France) and halfback Gianluca Naldi (Italy) are foreigners.
Gomes scored a try and Wells (conversion) and Naldi (penalty) also scored in the Students’ 20-16 win over Nelson Bay.
“You can see that everyone has skill, but we all have different styles and techniques,” Wells said. “It is taking time for us to gel. By about round three we should be close.”
Wells has played mainly at 12 or 15 in recent seasons but has been handed the job of running the team at fly-half.
“We have a few boys whose English is not that great and they want someone to control the game,” he said. The video clips they saw of me were mainly playing fullback. I enjoy kicking but counter attacking is my strength. Uni have a few boys who can play 15 and they really want me to settle in as a number 10.”
Wells was born in Gisborne and went to noted Auckland rugby academy, Manurewa High School, where he played in the first XV aged 15. He represented Northern Region Maori colts (under-20s) and was picked up by Northland.
Younger brothers Henare, 24, and Dallas, 22, are talented rugby league players. They grew up on the Gold Coast with their father and attended Keebra Park High School. Henare played under-20s at the Sydney Roosters and was at the Warriors last year. Dallas played under-20s at Cronulla.
“They have done well in league, but I can still handle them,” he laughed.
Next for the Students are Lake Macquarie.
“I’m used to to playing physical teams back home,” he said. “Club rugby here is pretty strong. From what I’m told we have a lot more experience this year which gives the young boys confidence.”