The Ospreys have moved to strengthen their front row options with the signing of former All Black Campbell Johnstone.
The former Crusaders and Biarritz tight-head has signed until the end of the season providing much needed cover for existing tight-heads Aaron Jarvis, Adam Jones and Joe Rees who are all ruled out with injury.
The 32-year old from Waipukurau arrives in Ospreylia in time for the busiest month of the season. The Ospreys face back-to-back Heineken Cup clashes against European heavyweights Toulouse ahead of big Christmas derby fixtures, before the focus turns back to Europe with the visit of old foes Leicester Tigers to the Liberty and a trip to Treviso.
A product of the Canterbury province, Johnstone played 38 times for Crusaders before signing for Biarritz in 2008. Renowned as a powerful scrummager, Johnstone played 80 games for the French outfit in four years, including 14 appearances in the Heineken Cup. In the 2009/10 season he faced the Ospreys in the nail biting quarter-final clash in San Sebastian where Biarritz won by a solitary point en route to the final against Toulouse.
Capped three times by New Zealand in 2005, against Fiji and the British and Irish Lions (two tests), Johnstone left Biarritz in the summer, returning to New Zealand to play for Tasman in the ITM Cup.
Johnstone’s arrival comes just days after the return of Cai Griffiths on loan from London Irish.
Andy Lloyd, Rugby Operations Manager at the region, commented:
“The arrival of Campbell and Cai gives us some much needed options at tight-head given the injuries we’ve suffered and the ongoing commitments we have to the national set-up at senior and age-grade level.
“Campbell will go straight into our ERC squad on his arrival, and although Cai is ineligible for the Heineken Cup having played in the Amlin Cup this season he will have a big part to play in our PRO12 defence, particularly during the Six Nations period when in addition to our senior national commitments we will also lose two tightheads to the U20 squad.
“We remain entirely committed to development from within and don’t take any decision to look outside the group for injury cover lightly. However, we have a responsibility to our supporters, management and directors to remain competitive, as well as to our players for their personal welfare. Given the complete lack of any professional experience in our remaining options there is quite simply no way we could go the rest of the season without bringing in additional cover.
“This autumn we have seen seven front five players from this region involved with the senior national squad, a contribution that we are justifiably proud of. However, the reality is that with so many players from one region featuring there can be a heavy price to pay in terms of injuries to the like of Aaron, Richard Hibbard and Alun Wyn Jones as well as the need to provide squad cover, both during the international period and when players return to the region unfit to play.”