Blues coach Sir John Kirwan says Ma'a Nonu has gone back on a handshake agreement that he would stay with the team next year.
Nonu announced today that he will be playing for the Highlanders next year, walking out on the final year of his contract with the Blues.
It has left Kirwan wounded, not only because Nonu has done a u-turn, but because he is left drastically short of experience in his backline next season, deciding to let other teams pick up midfielders because he thought he had Nonu.
"I am obviously disappointed," Kirwan said from the team's Auckland training base today.
"The lateness in the decision has really put us in a difficult situation, but we are going to have a young, exciting young team and we'll move on.
Kirwan went to Wellington before the All Blacks went to Argentina and South Africa to talk to him about staying with the team next year and he said he came away from that meeting believing he'd got his man.
"That is one of the most disappointing things," Kirwan said.
"I went down to Wellington and came home with 100 per cent [belief] that he was coming to us and it has been difficult for us because we changed what we were doing over the three-week period and made some decisions.
"Before the deadline at 5pm [on Friday] I got another phone call and everything changed pretty quick."
Kirwan said Nonu called him afterwards to say he had concerns about things that had gone on at the team this year.
"He did ring me an hour and a half later, saying that he had changed his mind and he wanted to talk to me about a few things that had happened in the past," Kirwan said.
"I said the most important thing is that you've got to do what's best for you or your family, which means I want people who want to be here.
"We then decided to give him a bit more time to think about it and he's come back and he's moved on."
Seeing as Kirwan wasn't with the Blues this year it is surprising that Nonu would want to bring up those issues with the new coach and Kirwan said he wanted to create the best environment possible for the second-five.
"I said that that is my responsibility, to make sure that everyone around you puts you into the best position to play the game to the best of your ability," he said.
"This is not about the Blues, this is about each individual player being the best they can be.
"I am not going to stand here and let anyone talk badly about my franchise.
"This was a situation that wasn't our fault and I am disappointed about what's happened from a personal point of view and a contractual point of view.
"So the Blues have been exposed and we are going to cop it and move on."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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