Rugby: Lam names his strongest-ever Blues squad

Ma'a Nonu will play for the Blues in 2012. Photo / Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu will play for the Blues in 2012. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues are the first of the five New Zealand franchises to reveal its squad for the 2012 Super 15 season.

There are four first time Blues, with the high-profile arrivals of Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu joined by David Raikuna and George Moala.

Promising first-five Gareth Anscombe has been elevated from the wider training group to the full-time squad and is one of two specialist first-fives.

The core of the forward pack is back, boasting a number of World Cup winning All Blacks.

SUPER 15 SQUADS

Coach Pat Lam said he was excited about the continuity of the squad as well as the introduction of some new faces to the team.

"This is definitely the strongest squad I've named in my time with the Blues," Lam said.

"If you look at the group we've named, there are only four players out of the 30 that are new to the franchise - Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, David Raikuna and George Moala.

"That's exciting when you look at Piri and Ma'a who were superb during the World Cup and were nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award, and also Moala and Raikuna - two young wingers who will learn from a lot from the experienced guys.

"They have a lot of natural talent. David's ability to beat a man is exceptional and he's a typical Fijian flyer, while Moala is all Tongan power and strength so they complement Rudi Wulf, Sherwin Stowers and Rene Ranger.

"Ranger is keen to get some game time at centre like he did a couple of years ago and that frees up the possibility for these younger guys to get in, do some training and really push hard for a wingers spot."

Lam was also thrilled to see Keven Mealamu head into his 12th year with the Blues.

"There's no hiding the admiration I have for Keven Mealamu and we were so stoked he re-committed to the Blues for two years before the World Cup," he said.

"He's played a major part in developing the 'Blues way' and I knew he would play a major role in the All Blacks side that won the World Cup. He's the most experienced Blues player ever and he's got a couple of years in him left. He's so passionate about the Blues and he's the ultimate role model for the rest of the team."

While Nonu and Weepu's move north from the Hurricanes may have grabbed all the headlines in the lead up to the 2012 Blues Squad announcement, Lam said the return of wing Rudi Wulf was one of his most pleasing signings.

"I have to say it certainly made my day when Rudi asked to come back to the Blues. He had a lot of pressure to go to the other franchises because everyone knows how good he is but we're thrilled he's chosen to stay with us.

"Rudi exemplifies the ultimate professional player - he's pretty much the Kevvie of the backs in way he trains, his commitment and he's a great team man. He's someone that is certainly going to help us a lot next year."

Blues squad

FORWARDS:

Anthony Boric
Daniel Braid
Luke Braid
Charlie Faumuina
Jerome Kaino
Chris Lowrey
Tevita Mailau
Pauliasi Manu
Tom McCartney
Keven Mealamu
Brad Mika
Liaki Moli
Filo Paulo
Peter Saili
Angus Ta'avao
Ali Williams
Tony Woodcock

BACKS:

Gareth Anscombe
Michael Hobbs
Alby Mathewson
George Moala
Lachie Munro
Ma'a Nonu
David Raikuna
Rene Ranger
Benson Stanley
Sherwin Stowers
Isaia Toeava
Piri Weepu
Rudi Wulf

-NEWSTALK ZB/ HERALD ONLINE

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