Blues pass on Nonu, hunt Benji

Tue, 16 Jul 2013 18:28
Large ma a nonu highlanders looks Large benji marshall Large beauden barrett hurricanes Large john kirwan blues gestures

Blues coach John Kirwan says he has no interest in signing Ma’a Nonu but has been in contact with Rugby League star Benji Marshall.

Blues coach John Kirwan says he has no interest in signing Ma’a Nonu but has been in contact with Rugby League star Benji Marshall.

Kirwan has hardly had time to reflect on his first season as head coach of the Auckland Super Rugby side and is already contemplating which players will top his recruitment drive for the 2014 season.

What is set in stone at this early stage is that All Black centre Nonu will not be returning to the Blues following his poor Super Rugby campaign at the Highlanders.

"I don't think Ma'a wants to come back to the Blues, and for me the Hurricanes is where he'd want to be," Kirwan told Fairfax NZ News.

"I don't think there's a spot here in those positions. We're pretty strong. We've got a young backline that's going to be very special in Francis Saili, Charles Piutau and Frank Halai."

Kirwan confirmed that he is in talks with Marshall, who captained New Zealand in their 2008 Rugby League World Cup-winning campaign, and is also in the race for Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett’s signature.

Marshall officially requested an early release from the final two years of his contract with Wests Tigers on Monday, with the Sydney club as well as the New Zealand national side indicating that they will not stand in his way.

Kirwan initially approached Marshall’s agent Martin Tauber two weeks ago and has since spoken with the 28-year-old himself.

"I've spoken to him [Marshall]. He's a guy who is excited about the next stage of his professional career," said Kirwan.

"It didn't get down to whether we were a part of his mix. I just wanted to talk to him about what he was thinking moving forward.

"What I got out of the conversation was he is genuinely thinking about changes in his life.

"I've spoken to his manager and we're part of what he is thinking moving forward. We're in the mix, I'm sure.

"Benji needs to make some decisions. He's obviously made one very big one and that's to move away from the Tigers.

"He'll be assessing what's on the table and I'm sure the Blues aren't the only people talking to him."

Marshall could join star Rugby League convert Sonny Bill Williams in Japan in a lucrative introduction to Rugby Union, and Kirwan conceded they would be unable to match such a deal.

"I've spoken to Martin and Benji and there are three or four other people we want to talk to over the next 10 days. How that commercial package is put together, if it gets to that, is something we'll assess at the time," said Kirwan.

"I don't know if it's a sticking point, but he's going to have to take a pay cut to come to rugby, so that's a big sacrifice. He's a superstar of Rugby League in a bigger population and money pull. If New Zealand was going to be one of his options, I'm sure he would have to look at it financially as well."

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