All Blacks centre legend Ma’a Nonu will be returning from France to the Southern Hemisphere to play for Tana Umaga’s Blues in the 2019 Super Rugby tournament.
Umaga in his last year as Blues coach will be backing himself to get the most out of Nonu, who he mentored as a youngest first at the Hurricanes and then at All Blacks level.
Nonu’s return from Toulon could spark things up for the Auckland-based franchise, who have been struggling of late. His presence alongside rugby-freak Sonny Bill Williams would see the Blues starting with the All Black’s (second half) World Cup winning centre pairing.
At 36, Nonu has decided to return to New Zealand for “personal reasons” but will be hoping to add a successful Blues campaign to his name, following two bleak stints with the side, in 2012 and 2014.
“Hopefully next year will be a year to build and to be successful. That is the challenge I am looking forward to,” Nonu was quoted saying in Stuff NZ
“I know the Blues have had some tough times in the last few seasons but I am excited to play with some of the young and up-and-coming players who will have long careers and rejuvenate this place.
“And I am looking forward to being under the watchful eye of Tana who was a mentor when I was coming through. I will be looking to do my best for him and the franchise.”
Umaga’s thinking lies behind the fact that the Blues have had talent but lacked consistency and experience in the backline, especially in the centres as Rieko Ioane will be expected to return to the wing for the franchise, in benefit of the All Blacks 2019 World Cup cause.
“Our review showed that our backline, while talented and exciting, lacked an experienced figure on a regular basis in the midfield due to injury.” he said.
“Next season will throw up some other challenges with a new format without the international break. And players in line for the World Cup, like Sonny Bill Williams, will likely be monitored more closely.”
The coach went on to add: “We think Ma’a can play an important role for us and I am sure he can deliver on the field, as well as help guide our young players.”