Joseph: Nonu's a no-go but Woodcook, Hore may stay

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 13/09/2013
Ma'a Nonu
Fairfax NZ
UNWANTED: Ma'a Nonu is still looking for a franchise to play for next year.

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Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph says the door remains firmly shut on Ma'a Nonu but he won't know until this weekend if Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock are also exiting the Highlanders.

While there was no chance of Nonu being welcomed back to Dunedin, Joseph refused to say fellow All Blacks Hore and Woodcock were also goners.

There have been reports hooker Hore, who turns 35 today, would retire after the Rugby Championship ended.

Loosehead prop Woodcock, after just one season at the Highlanders, has been contemplating a return to the Blues.

Given that Hore and Woodcock have 180 test caps between them it seems strange Joseph hasn't recently talked to them to confirm their plans for next season.

However, he said clogged schedules had prevented this: the players had been busy with the All Blacks, while he had only returned from a fortnight in the United States last Friday.

"The Ma'a thing for me is dead in the water," Joseph said. "That's pretty obvious for me and the Highlanders.

"But with 'Horey', respectfully, I haven't had a chance to talk to him because he has been playing test matches and I have been busy.

"I am going to catch up with him this weekend. We haven't actually had a chance to have a good yarn and sit down."

Joseph indicated that if Hore played another season it may convince his fellow front rower to stay with the Highlanders.

"The thing around 'Woody' is that he is very close to 'Horey' and his decision to come south was because of the chance to play with his friend," Joseph added.

"And so I can only assume his decision is based on what he [Hore] is up to. After that [this weekend's meeting] we will know what is happening."

Hore joined the Highlanders last year after he was booted out of the Hurricanes by coach Mark Hammett.

Yesterday All Blacks coach Steve Hansen acknowledged Hore didn't figure in his plans for the 2015 World Cup, stating he may "retire this year or next year".

Joseph, who will again be assisted by Jon Preston and Scott McLeod next year, wasn't concerned he still didn't know about Hore's plans.

"It is no different to what has actually happened every year with 'Horey' because he is a pretty cruisy guy. It is just the way it is."

Nonu wants to go back to the Hurricanes.

But Hammett, who sacked him in 2011, was having none of that. His rejection led to speculation the New Zealand Rugby Union may ask Joseph to offer Nonu a reprieve.

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"That's the first I have heard about that," Joseph, who hasn't spoken to Nonu since the Highlanders season ended, said.

"We offered the player a contract in April and his reluctance to make a commitment in that time means that contract offer has lapsed and everything else has unfolded beneath my eyes and your eyes. We have just moved on."

Nonu also did his relationship with Joseph few favours by getting red carded for a spear tackle on the Crusaders Tom Marshall on June 29, just days after Nonu has produced some spectacular form for the All Blacks.

The Highlanders, who finished 14th this season, have already lost All Blacks Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Jamie Mackintosh and Tamati Ellison.

Joseph wanted Ellison back next year but the NZRU refused to grant the midfielder a dispensation because he skipped the NPC to play in Japan.

He has since signed for the Melbourne Rebels.

- Fairfax Media

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