Rugby: Boyd keen to work with Nonu

By Daniel Richardson

Ma'a Nonu. Photo / Getty Images.
Ma'a Nonu. Photo / Getty Images.

Incoming Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd would rather focus on the future than the past when it comes to Ma'a Nonu.

The All Blacks second-five is heading home to join the Wellington-based club next season after three tumultuous years spent bouncing between the Blues and Highlanders.

Nonu last played for the Hurricanes in 2011 and was moved on by then-coach Mark Hammett; but a combination of Hammett's departure, a lack of midfielders at the Hurricanes and Nonu's growing maturity has created the opportunity for his return.

"The stars have aligned in a lot of ways for Ma'a," Boyd said.

The courting process had been rumoured for a while but Boyd said he spoke with Nonu in earnest for the first time last week and was convinced they could work together next season.

"We had a long discussion about what the Hurricanes would look like going forward and didn't really delve in to the past," Boyd said.

"He'll be treated just like everybody else."

Hammett has said the Hurricanes were a mess when he arrived ahead of the 2011 campaign and part of his attempt to clean up the club was to remove the likes of Nonu and Andrew Hore.

Boyd, who was an assistant coach with Wellington's provincial side from 2003-2006, of which Nonu was a member, said the pair had a long association that stretched back more than 10 years.

"I had no issues with Ma'a in my environment during that period of time," Boyd said.

Nonu's time away from the Hurricanes was a challenging experience for the 91-test veteran and Boyd said he expected him to set a good example for the young players in the squad next season, while he would also be more settled off the field as his family are based in Wellington.

"At some point in their careers, all players, they begin taking a fair bit out of the basket and it's time to put a little back in again," Boyd said.

"I've seen a number of those players at the back end of their playing careers that have become real givers. I detected from Ma'a that he knows it's time for him to put time back in to rugby and time back in to the Hurricanes and give back and I detect a real positive attitude in that respect."

Given the All Blacks will defend the World Cup next year, Boyd said he didn't expect Nonu, 32, and long-time midfield partner Conrad Smith to play every minute of the Super Rugby campaign as they build towards the global tournament.

Finding adequate depth in the midfield is one of Boyd's pressing concerns as Alapati Leiua and Tim Bateman have both departed, while the Hurricanes also need further cover in the loose forwards and possibly another outside back.

"Our roster's looking really quite tidy at the moment," Boyd said. "But there are some signings that we'll need to continue on with."

Another strong lock may also be on the shopping list.

Boyd will be assisted by John Plumtree next season but wasn't able to discuss whether he would add to his coaching team.

"I know exactly where we are going and we are in perfect shape for what we need but I'm not in a position to announce that at this stage."

- APNZ

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