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Black, West trading places in 2018

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/06/2017 Angelo Risso
The home side scored both of their tries in the first half before relying on the boot of first five-eighth Ihaia West. © AAP/Ross Setford The home side scored both of their tries in the first half before relying on the boot of first five-eighth Ihaia West.

The Blues and Hurricanes have officially completed their much-speculated first-five switcheroo, with Ihaia West and Otere Black to trade places in 2018.

The 22-year-old Black, a Maori All Black and former New Zealand under-20 player, has signed a two-year deal in Auckland and will likely take up the reins as the franchise's playmaker-in-chief.

Otere Black of the Hurricanes. © Getty Images Otere Black of the Hurricanes.

With Beauden Barrett a nailed-on starter for the Hurricanes, Black saw his move to the Blues as an opportunity to start more Super Rugby matches.

He'll form a youthful first-five group in Auckland alongside fellow recruit Bryn Gatland, signed on to the end of 2018, and Stephen Perofeta.

All three players have started against the British and Irish Lions this month - the North Harbour-based Gatland for the provincial Barbarians, Perofeta for the victorious Blues and Black for the Hurricanes.

"It was a hard decision for me to decide to leave the Hurricanes," Black, who plays for Manawatu at the provincial level, said.

"There are no guarantees but I hope to make the Blues No.10 jumper my own, and I'm looking forward to all the challenges that come with that."

The Blues' No.10 shirt has been mostly a cursed one since the departure of Carlos Spencer in 2005, with no-one genuinely commanding the role.

West heads to Wellington to work as Barrett's understudy, while incumbent fly-half Piers Francis takes up a deal with English club Northampton Saints.

Gatland, son of Lions boss Warren, has also played some Blues minutes in 2017.

Head coach Tana Umaga wished both West and Francis well but was bullish about his 2018 playmaking stocks, saying they'd take the side to another level.

"Otere is a young player of considerable talent. I had the pleasure of coaching him with the New Zealand under-20s at the World Cup (in 2015) where he played a big part in that win," Umaga said.

"He is an accomplished first-five and will be a valuable addition.

"Bryn impressed us when he came into the Blues this year with his ability and a level of maturity beyond his years - he showed with his performance against the Lions that he can rise to the big occasion."

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