Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Rebuff may see Blues turn West

Bryn Hall can direct the Blues, writes Gregor Paul.

Few people expect Beauden Barrett to be prised away from the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Few people expect Beauden Barrett to be prised away from the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images

It's possible Beauden Barrett is right and an offer from the Blues is in the pipeline.

It's probable, however, that if it does come, he will rebuff it, opening the way for Ihaia West to sign a longer term contract with the Blues and become the latest in a long line of pretenders to try to establish himself in the franchise's troubled No 10 jersey.

The state of affairs between Barrett and the Blues is confusing. On Wednesday, Blues coach John Kirwan was asked whether he had put an offer in front of Barrett. He said "no" and then endorsed his current options.

"We're really happy with Simon [Hickey] and Ihaia [West], so we're going to go internally. We're talking to both those guys and hopefully will have results [soon]."

About the same time, Barrett announced in Wellington he thought an approach would be made shortly and that he'd look at it seriously, when, rather than if it came. It's likely Barrett will quite happily let the Hurricanes believe he's undecided.

There were several factors last year that resulted in Barrett almost leaving the Hurricanes for the Blues, one of which was money. It's believed the difference in the respective offers was about $30,000 and that, while the Hurricanes were desperate to keep their No 10, they took an age to match what the Blues had put forward.

But the Hurricanes are unlikely to be so resistant again, having almost lost Julian Savea for the same reason last year.

They also have the advantage of having confirmed their coaching team, while the Blues still don't know who will be replacing Mick Byrne and Graham Henry as assistants.

Whether an offer from the Blues comes or not, few people believe Barrett is likely to be prised out of the capital, especially not when the Hurricanes backline has played so superbly in 2014 and may be bolstered by the arrival of Ma'a Nonu.

While he may yet surprise everyone, the probability of Barrett staying has meant the picture is becoming clearer around where various aspiring first-fives will end up next year.

A few weeks ago, everything hinged on Barrett. Unusually, every first-five in the country except Aaron Cruden and Daniel Carter was coming off contract this year. But no one wanted to commit their future until they had a better feel for what Barrett was going to do. The Hurricanes' man sat as the kingmaker.

Colin Slade, Lima Sopoaga, Gareth Anscombe and West weren't too keen to confirm their plans until they knew Barrett's intentions. None of them wanted to shift on the basis they were going to be a starting player only to learn a few weeks later Barrett, the highest ranked, would be joining them.

But it's understood Slade has re-signed with the Crusaders and Sopoaga, while he may not have put pen to paper, has indicated he'll stay with the Highlanders.

Anscombe is wanted by the Chiefs and is believed to want to remain in Hamilton and his future is all-but decided except for the paperwork. West is the only contender holding out. He will sign with the Blues when he has confirmation Barrett is definitely not coming.

- Herald on Sunday

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