Vodacom Super Rugby
Hurricanes cut Nonu, Hore
Wellington - All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu has been told he will not be offered a new contract by the Wellington Hurricanes at the end of the Super Rugby season.
Nonu, who has played 104 Super Rugby matches and is regarded as one of the best centres in the world, is seen as the first of an expected purge of senior players by first-season coach Mark Hammett.
The Hurricanes also announced on Wednesday that captain and All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore will not be offered a new contract next season. Hore said he was looking for a new Super Rugby team but did not yet know here he would play in 2012.
Hammett has coached the Hurricanes to one of their worst season records: they have won only five of 14 matches and are ninth in the standings with two rounds remaining.
Senior players, including Hore, reportedly have reservations about Hammett's coaching style and several more may be let go to suppress dissent.
Hammett said the move to cut Nonu and Hore from the Hurricanes squad was "a combined decision". He said the announcement had been made two matches before the end of the regular season to give Hore and Nonu the chance to consider other playing opportunities.
"These guys have to have the opportunity to look ahead as well in terms of what they're doing for their futures," he said.
He indicated the decision may not have been well received by other Hurricanes players.
"Like anyone who's leaving a family there's some that are very close in a squad," he said. "For the guys that are really good mates that's a difficult time for those boys."
All Blacks Piri Weepu and Cory Jane are currently in contract talks with the Hurricanes and Hammett hoped they would remain with the team.
"I'm hoping they'll make a decision to stay on with us. They've got big decisions to make in the next month or so," he said.
The 29-year-old Nonu issued a statement on Wednesday expressing disappointment with the Hurricanes' decision.
"I had nothing to do with the matter, but that's the way it goes. It's a shame but you move on," Nonu said. "I've spent one-third of my life (nine years) in this team, I've met a lot of great guys and made a lot of friends over the years and I'm grateful for that.
"It's not the end, I move on. I still get the chance to do what I love and that's playing rugby wherever that may lie."
Fullback Jane and All Blacks wing Hosea Gear are thought likely to also leave the Hurricanes. Jane, a prolific Twitter user, has posted several tweets this season which have been interpreted as critical of Hammett.
Hammett is a former All Blacks hooker who played Super Rugby for the Crusaders. He was an assistant coach at the Crusaders under Todd Blackadder but this is his first appointment as head coach.
Local media has reported conflict between Hammett, who has tried to impose a rigidly structured style, and the players who have tried to maintain the Hurricanes' more improvised game.
Some the senior players are also reportedly concerned that the team's poor performance under Hammett has jeopardised their All Blacks selection chances in the World Cup year.