Blues sign two All Blacks
Blues sign two All BlacksSHARE
All Black veterans Tom Donnelly and Tony Woodcock will be playing for the Blues next year.
Donnelly, a lock, is heading north to join the Blues after the 32-year-old former Highlander and Crusader has signed with the franchise for one year and said he was looking forward to a fresh new challenge.
"I'm really keen to continue playing in New Zealand and when this opportunity came up to join the Blues I jumped at the chance," Donnelly said.
"I've really been enjoying my time with Otago this season and imparting some of my knowledge and experience onto a young group of players and I'm relishing the opportunity to do the same with a similarly young and exciting Blues team."
With the departure of key locks Ali Williams and Anthony Boric at the end of last season, Blues head coach John Kirwan said Donnelly would provide invaluable experience at the line-out in their absence.
"We've signed young Patrick Tuipulotu and have Liaki Moli and Culum Retallick as our other locks and so we felt we needed a little more experience for this young side and Tom will certainly bring that," Kirwan said.
"He's had a year away in Japan and was part of the Crusaders last season but he's pretty keen for a new challenge and we're looking forward to having his expertise at the franchise."
Donnelly made his Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders in 2004 and earned the first of his 15 All Blacks Test caps against Australia in 2009.
After eight years with the Highlanders, Donnelly joined the Crusaders in 2012 and headed overseas to join the Mitsubishi Club in Japan later that year, before returning for the Crusaders' 2013 Super Rugby campaign.
* Meanwhile the World Cup-winning All Black prop, Tony Woodcock, is returning to the Blues after committing to the franchise for the 2014 Super Rugby season.
The most capped All Black prop (104 Test caps) and just the second player to reach 100 games for the Blues, 32-year-old Woodcock said he was looking forward to returning to the franchise after playing last season for the Highlanders.
"I'm really looking forward to moving home and being closer to my family," Woodcock said.
"I want to finish off my rugby at the Blues where it all started and so I'm excited to head back and re-join the team."
Kirwan said he was thrilled to welcome back a player with Woodcock's credentials and vast experience.
"I'm really excited to have Woody back at the Blues," Kirwan said.
"We're trying to build a lasting franchise and so we've got a lot of young guys and to have someone with his experience is fantastic. I see him as one of our people – he's had his OE and now he's back and so I think he'll add plenty of value to this team."
The 2014 Blues squad will be formally announced on October 30.