The Blues have answered losing their most experienced player by trumpeting the signings of promising talent.
Fresh on the heels of losing Super Rugby centurion and the world's best loose head prop in All Black Tony Woodcock, they have announced what they see as additions to the next tier of talent to lift them out of their mire.
They have signed Crusaders’ flanker Brendon O’Connor and Southland outside back Marty McKenzie to join the squad for the next two seasons.
Both players have come through the New Zealand age-group system, with previous impressive performances for the New Zealand under-20s.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan believed it was important to develop young rugby talents and prepare them for Super Rugby.
“This last season, I think it was the young guys who really stole the show across the New Zealand franchises and we saw the coming of age for some pretty special rugby players,” said Kirwan.
McKenzie, 20, has had a strong start to the NPC campaign and Kirwan likes what he sees.
“Marty is a young player who we’ve been watching for a while. He has stacks of talent and I believe giving him the opportunity to step up to Super Rugby level at the Blues will see him flourish.”
McKenzie is excited about his move to join the Blues for their 2013 campaign.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to be coached by the new Blues coaching staff and I want to be part of the Blues in this rebuilding phase which could be the start of something pretty great.”
O’Connor, 23, who has had two years in the Crusaders’ camp, is a loose forward who Kirwan believes has shown a lot of potential.
O’Connor is currently recovering from knee surgery for an injury sustained during a club rugby game, but Kirwan said he will hit the ground running when the Blues assemble in December and will be fully involved in pre-season hit outs.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with JK and I really liked what he had to say. This is exciting times and I am determined to make the most of this opportunity at the Blues,” O’Connor said.
The Blues have also secured 20-year-old Auckland tighthead prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
“Ofa is one for the future. Having come through Auckland Rugby’s development programme, he has represented the union and the Blues franchise in age-group and development sides, and his progress at provincial level is pretty exciting,” Kirwan said.
Tu’ungafasi has signed with the Blues for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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