Blues won't chase Barrett signature for 2015
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has confirmed he won't go chasing the signature of rising All Blacks star Beauden Barrett for the second straight Super Rugby off-season and is happy to stick with the brace of young comers he already has on hand.
Kirwan is also confident he can hold on to veteran international Ma'a Nonu, who has thrived second time round with the Auckland franchise, even though the in-form midfielder has an out-clause for year two of his contract.
The Blues coach was today fully focused on Saturday night's must-win penultimate round-robin clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch and was reluctant to talk about future moves. But he did cover off on Barrett and Nonu.
"We're really happy with Simon [Hickey] and Ihaia [West], so we're going to go internally," Kirwan said of his plans at No 10. "We're talking to both those guys and hopefully will have results [soon]. But our focus this week is the Crusaders and we just want to put all those things aside for a wee bit."
The coach said Nonu was playing "exceptionally well" and "we want him to stay, so we're cruising along and hoping he will be with us for next year which is what he has in his contract".
The Blues welcome back international Charles Piutau this week after a month out with a knee injury, with Kirwan hinting strongly that the classy fullback will be pressed straight back into action.
"He's available, and when you've got someone of his quality around, getting him back out there is a real positive. We just need to go through the next couple of days and make sure he ticks off from 98 per cent to 100."
With backup prop Angus Ta'avao (broken nose/concussion) and reserve halfback Piri Weepu (leg) the only fresh injury worries from Saturday's slump-busting 40-14 victory in Perth, Kirwan is likely to stick pretty closely with his XV which ran out against the Force.
But the Blues coach was adamant his side had achieved little with their first away victory in nearly two seasons if they don't back it up with another one to continue their late charge at a playoffs spot.
"We're really happy to get the gorilla off our back but there's another pretty big one waiting down the line, so we've just got to get back to working hard," he said.
Kirwan had been operating under a less-is-best policy in terms of time on the training paddock for his All Blacks, but said this week was about being mentally strong.
"If you're a good side you have to go down and win really tough football games and this is a tough football game," he said. "They're really hard to beat down there but if you want to be successful in this tournament you need those wins and guys need to be up for the challenge.
"We realise they'll be hurting from last weekend, but they've got an extra life, and we've got no lives. They could probably still make it losing one [more] game, so the pressure is a little less on them. But we know it's going to be a mammoth evening and if you want win down there everyone's got to play well."
It was a formula the Blues got right in a big way last weekend. Now it's about backing it up.