Canterbury duo tipped to head to the Blues

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 31/08/2012
Dom Bird
Getty Images
WARM WELCOME: Canterbury’s Dom Bird is tackled by Auckland’s Liaki Moli during Wednesday’s clash in Christchurch.

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New Blues coach John Kirwan has turned his gaze to Canterbury as he looks to rebuild the beleaguered franchise.

The former All Black has been in attack mode since his recent appointment with a number of players, including Canterbury's Brendon O'Connor and Dom Bird, linked with the Auckland-based franchise.

And although the recruitment would appear heavy-handed it's not yet having any negative connotations as far as coach Tabai Matson is concerned.

“I don't think it's having a disruptive or negative affect on us, if anything it's probably the opposite," Matson said.

“If a young player realises that he is being watched it can only help the way he plays because he will generally want to do that wee bit better than normal. But for us I certainly haven't seen any evidence of it working in a bad way."

Bird, 21, has been touted as heading to Blues land next year and he, along with flanker O'Connor, are understood to have been offered contracts by the franchise for next year.

Bird wasn't giving too much away following Canterbury's victory over Auckland on Wednesday night - but gave the impression he was considering the offer.

“You have to keep your options open, but at this stage I'm just focusing on playing rugby for Canterbury," he said.

The 2.06m and 112kg Bird was a member of the Crusaders' wider training group this year but never played Super matches because All Blacks Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano and Tom Donnelly were preferred by coach Todd Blackadder. Ross Kennedy was used as backup.

Whitelock, Romano and Donnelly, who is on a short-term contract in Japan, are all expected to return next year which will limit Bird's chances of playing for the Crusaders. O'Connor's path is blocked by Richie McCaw and Matt Todd.

Another on the Blues radar was All Blacks and Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg, but he is set to re-sign with the squad after he has finalised contract details with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.

“There aren't that many top line rugby players left in the country," Matson said.

“And I would think that John has been given the job with the mandate of looking toward the future, which makes the young players coming through in a competition like this really appealing to them."

And although Kirwan might be the master angler, Graham Henry is definitely his shiniest lure.

Henry is only with the franchise in an advisory role but as a World Cup-winning coach he will be a mouth-watering prospect for any young player looking to advance their career.

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Following on from their decisive win over Auckland on Wednesday night, Matson said the team had come through the match well.

Today he expects to name his squad to face North Harbour in tomorrow's match with Tom Taylor the only injury concern.

All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett is expected to be named in the side after being released by Steve Hansen this week.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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