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No to Nonu but Fruean a focus for Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013
Robbie Fruean
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ
ROAD TO RECOVERY: Robbie Fruean has been recovering well at home since his open-heart surgery.

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The Crusaders want Robbie Fruean back for next season and they have reiterated All Black Ma'a Nonu just doesn't appeal to them.

Centre Fruean, who is recovering from open-heart surgery after having a valve replaced earlier this month, will be a free-agent when the Super Rugby season ends.

Despite the 25-year-old's medical history - he also had heart surgery in 2009 to repair a life-threatening inflammation of the heart known as pancarditis - Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said the franchise was hoping to offer him a one-year deal.

"At the moment he is off contract but we are going to do everything we can to look after Robbie," Blackadder said.

"We want to get him back into the mix, there is no doubt about that.

"Everyone is going to do their best to support him and to do the right thing."

Getting medical clearance from the New Zealand Rugby Union will be an important step in this process.

It is also understood the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association have offered their support for Fruean and will work with the NZRU in a bid to prolong his professional rugby career.

NZRU medical director Dr Ian Murphy couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Fruean was at Crusaders training for a photo shoot on Monday but unavailable for comment.

Team doctor Deb Robinson recently told The Press he was making a good recovery after being allowed to return to his Christchurch home just three days after his operation.

Despite there being no certainty Fruean will return next year, Dan Carter taking his sabbatical and utility back Tom Marshall already confirming he has signed a two-year deal with the Chiefs, Blackadder said the Crusaders had not put out any feelers to midfielder Nonu's management team.

"No, we won't be doing that," Blackadder said.

Although second five-eighth Nonu is good friends with a number of the All Blacks in the Crusaders, Blackadder is determined to stick with Fruean and his incumbent midfielders Ryan Crotty and Tom Taylor.

Nonu, who has played for the Highlanders, Blues and Hurricanes in the past three years, has made it clear he would prefer to return to Wellington, his home town, and play for the Hurricanes.

It is understood he was to have a meeting with Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett in the capital this week.

Although Nonu has failed to be of great value to his Super Rugby teams in recent seasons he has been an important cog in the All Blacks since clamping down a regular starting spot since 2008.

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Coach Steve Hansen will be wanting the NZRU to re-sign him when his contract expires at the end of the year.

But there is no guarantee Hammett will welcome back Nonu after he sacked him following much acrimony in 2011.

If Hammett and Nonu fail to smoke the peace pipe, the NZRU may ask Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph to re-sign Nonu.

Joseph recently said talks with Nonu stalled in April.

Blues coach John Kirwan has already stated he isn't looking to sign Nonu and the Chiefs, who still believe they could still re-sign Sonny Bill Williams, don't appear keen.

- The Press

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