Collins key part of Blues plan

By Cameron Leslie

Northland's Justin Collins is another part of Sir John Kirwan's plan.

The former Blues flanker has been called upon by Kirwan to help prepare his inexperienced team for the challenge of Super 15.

Just after Kirwan was given the reins, Collins received a phone call asking him to meet up with a bunch of former players for a brain storm session.

"[Kirwan] discussed wanting to get a group of ex-players who have been there, done that, and succeeded," said Collins. "We were a bit of a sounding board to him for his plans and team selections, keep JK on the straight and narrow.

"He pulled us in there on the first day and wanted to know what the Blues stood for, and to tell you the truth it was hard to answer.

"All of us sat there and scratched our heads, but after a while we had a number of things the Blues stood for."

Collins said the cultural diversity amongst the Blues meant that was something they stood for, along with excitement and family.

He said the former Blues players, that included Joe Stanley, Wayne Shelford, Michael Jones, Justin Collins, Craig Innes and Eric Rush, met with Kirwan every two weeks before Christmas but of late had tapered off due to pre-season training and travel picking up.

Collins added that due to the loss of experienced players like Ma'a Nonu and Tony Woodcock, Northland's Rene Ranger was now an integral part of an inexperienced Blues backline.

"I think it took him [Ranger] by surprise that JK wanted him to be a leader in the backline. Rene just had to look around to see why. He's got a lot to offer and the guys around him will listen."

Kirwan will look to draw upon all of Ranger's experience as he attempts to return the team to the glory days of the mid-90s.

"My job is to make them better players," Kirwan said. "I have a system of coaching to make them better each day. From a coaching point of view I need to supply something that makes that happen.

"Then I want to give them the responsibility of the game because they are the ones asked to deliver it. I call it Lego. I give them all the pieces but they have to put it together.

"If I can give them all the pieces - individually, collectively, tactically, technically - then they have all the tools to perform."

Ideally Kirwan would like strong results this season and certainly ones to keep the critics at more than arm's length.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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