Blues call in Ihaia West to replace Baden Kerr
The Blues are taking no chances in their pool of first five-eighths options, calling in Hawke's Bay playmaker Ihaia West to replace the crocked Baden Kerr.
Kerr is out for the season after requiring surgery to repair broken fingers and the franchise were due to announce today that West would replace him in their squad.
The Blues already have Simon Hickey, Chris Noakes and Benji Marshall all covering the No 10 spot and West's callup probably indicates they see Marshall more as a fullback option than in the playmaking position.
Coach Sir John Kirwan was otherwise rapt to welcome back a raft of players off the injury list ahead of a crucial clash against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium on Friday night.
Hooker Keven Mealamu, locks Patrick Tuipulotu and Tom Donnelly, loose forwards Peter Saili and Kane Barrett, and backs Jamison Gibson-Park and Jackson Willison all return to full training this week and are expected to be available for selection against the Hurricanes.
Halfback Piri Weepu is also back training after minor surgery to repair a small hole in his heart and is expected to re-enter the selection mix next week.
Kirwan said it was heartening to have a relatively full squad to choose from ahead of such a vital clash.
"The competition is better right across the board," said Kirwan of a tight Kiwi conference. "This week it's a huge game for the Canes and for us. Both of us are on 16 points, and everything's jammed between 16 and 25.
"Both teams need to win this week, and if you win you're keeping in touch and if you lose you're not out of touch but you're under pressure."
Kirwan also clarified the Blues' position on Marshall, with reports suggesting he's unhappy with his lack of opportunities and considering bailing out of his two-year deal with the franchise."
"I don't know where all the information is coming from. We talk to each other every week about rugby and where he's heading. He's happy, and as far we're concerned he's here with us. We're happy with where we're going with it."
Kirwan said Marshall's frustrations with the time it's taking to adapt to his new code were not a surprise for him.
"He's just about ready to say 'well, I've done my learning, here we go'. We're trying to make sure we don't expose him from a tactical point of view but it's been frustrating for him.
"He's working hard on his game, and I think we're getting close to saying 'righto, here we go'. I've just got to get that timing right."
Kirwan was also rapt to have Mealamu back after he's taken a long time to get over a calf problem that struck early in the campaign.
"He our leader. It's been frustrating for him, but now he's back to 100 percent we're looking forward getting him out there. He brings a lot of leadership and with 100-odd games for the franchise, and over 100 games for the All Blacks he brings that experience which is what we need."
The Blues will name their team to face the Hurricanes on Wednesday.
- Fairfax Media
What NZ rugby job would you give Robbie Deans?Related story: (See story)