Auckland - In their second year as a stand-alone
organisation, the Blues believe their 2015 season will provide the platform for
sustained success in the Super Rugby competition, according to the Blues' official website.
The Blues on Wednesday named a 38-strong team
largely based on players from within the region of Northland, North Harbour and
Auckland with a balance of proven performers and future potential - both key
planks in the organisation’s philosophy.
Twenty-nine players are from within the Blues
region, one of the highest number of any New Zealand Super Rugby team, with a
strong emphasis on building its base with only four newcomers, with the six
developing young players in the wider training group all promoted out of the
region’s development programme.
Head coach Sir John Kirwan is pleased to
have the bulk of his 2014 squad returning, but also delighted with the quality
of his new signings led by 51-Test scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan, after three years in the English Premiership, and Josh
Bekhuis, an enduring 2m-tall lock with 81 Super Rugby caps for the Highlanders
over six seasons.
The pack is further enhanced with the
reappearance of Blues and current Bay of Plenty lock Culum Retallick and former
New Zealand Schools captain and All Blacks Under-20 loose forward, Joe Edwards,
who both missed the majority of the last Super Rugby season with injury.
The newcomers along with Cowan in the backs
is in-form ITM Cup midfielder Hamish Northcott from Manawatu, while former
Blues wider training group inside back Dan Bowden, formerly with the Crusaders
and Highlanders, returns to his native Northland after stints in England and
All Blacks Sevens talent, Ben Lam, the big,
fast-stepping wing who was in the winning World Sevens and the Commonwealth Games
teams, has his chance at the 15-aside game after an injury-plagued 2014 season.
The cornerstone of the Blues will be the
pack that includes six All Blacks – Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Jerome Kaino,
Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu and Steven Luatua who boast 325 Test caps
“I am happy with the balance of the squad
between the All Blacks, a group of players who now have experience to
understand what Super Rugby demands and some young players that we need to
nurture for the future of our team,” Kirwan said.
“As an organisation we are just a year old
and have a much more settled front and back office with a discernible plan from
which we can build.
“Where possible we’ve looked inside this Blues
area for our players especially for our developing young players.
“That said we’ve got some excellent new
signings like Bekhuis, Cowan and Northcott.”
The new leader of the Blues will be 54-Test
stalwart Kaino, who has returned to compelling international form after two
seasons in Japan.
“Jerome brings everything you want in a
captain - leadership on the field, leadership off the field. He is also an X-factor player. As a team we want to be resilient and relentless and Jerome is
that sort of player.”
He replaces Luke Braid who will continue to
play a key role on and off the field for the Blues.
“Luke is coming off injuries but we have
been in close communication and this is something he is fully supportive about.
Leadership has been good for Luke and he will stay in that role as one of our
Kirwan is clear about his goals for the
team this year, which will be measured by performance on and off the field.
“We will see success measured around more
consistency, the players playing for each other, for our sponsors and our fans,
and making our people proud of the way they play.
“Everyone talks about where we finish in
the competition ladder. But we need to focus on getting those core things right
and then the results will look after themselves.
“Obviously we all want to win. We want to
create sustained success and to do that all the pillars of the organisation have
to be in order and we are getting those in place.”
“Our philosophy as a team in 2015 is to be
relentless, uncompromising and hard-working. That’s probably an ideal
description for the likes of Kaino, Braid, Cowan and Keven Mealamu and I think
all our players want to aspire to that.”
The 2015 Blues squad is:
Josh Bekhuis (Southland), Luke
Braid (Auckland), Joe Edwards (Auckland), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland), Blake
Gibson (Auckland), Jerome Kaino (Auckland, captain), Will Lloyd (Auckland), Steven
Luatua (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Matt Moulds (Northland), Brendon
O’Connor (Hawkes Bay), James Parsons (North Harbour), Greg Pleasants-Tate (North
Harbour), Sam Prattley (Auckland), Culum Retallick (Bay of Plenty), Peter Saili
(Auckland), Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki), Hayden Triggs (North Harbour), Patrick
Tuipulotu (Auckland), Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North
Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Dan
Bowden (Northland), Jimmy Cowan (Tasman), Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki), Frank
Halai (Counties Manukau), Bryn Hall (North Harbour), Simon Hickey (Auckland),
Ben Lam (Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour), George Moala (Auckland), Melani
Nanai (Auckland), Hamish Northcott (Manawatu), Charles Piutau (Auckland),
Francis Saili (Auckland), Matt Vaega (North Harbour), Lolagi Visinia
(Auckland), Ihia West (Hawkes Bay)