Kirwan won't be drawn on Ma'a Nonu's future

MARC HINTON
Last updated 17:15 07/07/2014
Ma'a Nonu
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HOMEWARD BOUND: All Blacks superstar Ma'a Nonu is set to return to Wellington to be closer to his family.

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Sir John Kirwan was in no mood today to be quizzed on the imminent prospect of losing All Blacks superstar Ma'a Nonu for a second time.

Instead the Blues coach preferred to concentrate on Friday's Super Rugby finale against the Chiefs at Eden Park - "We still have an outside chance of making the playoffs" - and on the player they do have signed on the dotted line, young Hawke's Bay first five Ihaia West who has penned a new two-year deal with the franchise.

It appears certain that Nonu will again turn his back on the Blues after the Auckland franchise were the only New Zealand outfit interested in the All Blacks No 12 for this season. With his family in Wellington and the Hurricanes about to undergo a coaching revamp, it's been widely accepted for some time now that Nonu would head "home" for what's likely to be his final season of Super Rugby.

"Nothing's changed from last week," said Kirwan when asked about Nonu's future at the franchise he also left after a single season in 2012.

"I've said we're really keen for him to stay, we're really happy with him and nothing's changed for us. We just want to focus on the Chiefs this week."

But Kirwan did concede that if Nonu had family reasons behind his desire to return to the capital, then he'd give it his blessing.

"I'd understand and I'd support him if it's family reasons," Kirwan said. "We're creating a family here within the team. If it's a family issue then I'd support him."

Kirwan laughed off a radio report that he'd offered Wellington-based All Black Beauden Barrett a $1 million deal to come to the Blues last season. "No, it's not accurate," he said.

Again, regarding the No 10 spot, he reiterated his stance that the Blues weren't looking beyond West and national under-20 player Simon Hickey for next season.

"We've signed Ihaia, we want to sign Simon up and we've got Dan Bowden coming home. So we're really excited about Simon and Ihaia - we think both are really good young players who can drive the franchise forward -- and we've got Dan who can cover 10 and 12 with experience, so we're looking pretty good."

West said he was rapt to finally pick up a full New Zealand contract after very nearly bolting to the Melbourne Rebels late last year when he was initially unwanted by the five Kiwi franchises.

"I suppose I came pretty close, and lost a bit of sleep over the decision," the 22-year-old said.

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"I ended up wanting to play for the Maori, and thought I was young enough to stay in New Zealand and give it a crack. I'm happy with the decision now."

West was picked up by the Blues midway through the season as an injury replacement for Baden Kerr, and has made a good fist of the No 10 job since assuming starting duties.

"I've waited a while to get a Super contract but now it's come it's pretty special," he said.

Meanwhile Kirwan has not given up hope of his team sneaking into the playoffs, even though they would need to thrash the Chiefs by more than 38 points to nudge out the Hurricanes.

"If one team in this country can actually do it, it's probably us," Kirwan said.

"We're excited about it. We've made a lot of progress this year and need to make sure we finish with a lot of pride and play well regardless. If we take that attitude into the game it's going to be a fun evening."

The Blues will be without midfielder Pita Ahki to face the Chiefs after releasing the North Harbour player for Commonwealth Games sevens duty, while prop Tony Woodcock and loose forward Steven Luatua are in doubt with shoulder injuries from Saturday's defeat in Christchurch. Kirwan rates Woodcock only 50-50 to make Friday's game, while he has Luatua an 80 percent chance to be fit.

- Stuff

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