Rugby: Kirwan names 'young and exciting' squad

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. Photo / Getty Images
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan. Photo / Getty Images

New Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has named what he describes as a 'young and exciting' squad for next season's Super 15 with 16 new faces in his squad of 32.

The All Black great named his first Blues squad since taking over from Pat Lam as head coach following the side's dreadful 2012 season where they finished bottom of the New Zealand conference with just four wins.

It will take a transformation of fortunes to turn them into a contender in the 2013 season but Kirwan certainly showed his hand in what could be described as a fresh start.

Kirwan is correct in stating the side is youthful with 24 players in the squad aged 25 or younger. Blues fans might debate whether it's an 'exciting' list of players however.

In a franchise that has previously included the likes of Jonah Lomu, Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer and in more recent times Ma'a Nonu, on the face of it, the squad fails to have the x-factor.

The prospect of coaching such a young squad is obviously an exciting prospect for Kirwan. Kirwan said he's leaning on a number of old hands including Michael Jones, Craig Innes, Joeli Vidiri and Gus Collins to educate his players about what it means to be a Blues player.

The only current All Blacks are forwards Ali Williams, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina along with last year's recuit Piri Weepu.

Fellow All Blacks Nonu and Tony Woodcock departed in the off season for the Highlanders.

Amongst the new players in the squad are Counties Manukau first five-eighth Baden Kerr, Canterbury loose forward Brendon O'Connor, Bay of Plenty lock Culum Retallick and Waikato midfield back Jackson Willison.

Missing however is Daniel Braid.

The Blues flanker, 31, who played six tests over eight years, had hoped to pick something up at the last minute after being told by Sir John Kirwan that his services were no longer required, but it is understood that the best offer he received was a place in the Auckland franchise's wider training group.

It is understood that he is considering an offer from an English club.

Blues squad

Forwards:
Kane Barrett, Anthony Boric, Luke Braid, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Quentin MacDonald, Tom McCartney, Keven Mealamu, Liaki Moli, Brendon O'Connor, James Parsons, Tim Perry, Ronald Raaymakers, Culum Retallick, Peter Saili, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ali Williams.

Backs:
Malakai Fekitoa, Jamison Gibson-Park, Frank Halai, Bryn Hall, Baden Kerr, Marty McKenzie, George Moala, Waisake Naholo, Chris Noakes, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Piri Weepu, Jackson Willison.

- APNZ/nzherald.co.nz

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