Rugby: Nonu hopes break will help

By Michael Brown

Ma'a Nonu hopes his five-week hiatus from playing rugby will benefit him in the long run. Photo / Getty Images.
Ma'a Nonu hopes his five-week hiatus from playing rugby will benefit him in the long run. Photo / Getty Images.

Ma'a Nonu didn't want to take a break but did what he was told and hopes his five-week hiatus from playing rugby will benefit him in the long run.

The 30-year-old was included in the All Blacks squad for the three-test series against Ireland but wasn't used after being told he needed to freshen up after a continuous diet of rugby for 18 months.

That five-week break will come to an end on Saturday when he lines up against the Western Force in the Blues' last home game of the season.

"Mate, I get told what to do," Nonu said after a long pause when asked if he agreed with the decision to rest him. "Everyone wants to play. The body could have tried to truck on, tried to dig a bit more. I guess I had to freshen up mentally.

"Hopefully it's done that and pays dividends in the long run. I got a bit of conditioning under my belt. I had the chance to watch an All Black test, three of them, and I really enjoyed that.

"I enjoyed watching, especially being in the camp and seeing how things unfolded. It depends how you take it. You can be selfish and sit back and whine about it and get pissed off or sit back and enjoy the wins and try to help my game."

A winning environment is something Nonu hasn't enjoyed much of in 2012. His Blues outfit, which he joined in a well-publicised move from the Hurricanes, have won only two of their 14 matches this season and sit a dismal 14th on the Super Rugby ladder.

It has raised speculation around Nonu's intentions in 2013 and he was guarded on his plans when quizzed today.

"Don't know yet. Can't tell you. It's a secret."

He was linked with the Crusaders but that is unlikely and the Blues will also undergo massive change with Pat Lam due to be replaced after four years as coach. Nonu admitted it has been a "tough season" but doesn't regret the move from Wellington.

"It's been a learning experience, really. I could sit back now and think, 'did I make the right move?' You just have to roll with the punches. These are the cards I have been dealt with this year and you just have to move on.

"[I have learned] you can't just rely on anyone else to play the rugby for you. I have to turn up every week and produce the goods."

That starts on Saturday when the Blues take on a Force side sitting one place ahead of them on the competition table and without captain David Pocock (groin).

Lam has made four changes to his starting side from the one beaten 41-34 by the Chiefs a month ago, with Piri Weepu returning at halfback and captain Keven Mealamu suiting up for his first Blues game in nearly three months.

Andrew Van der Heijden has been brought in to start at lock - Anthony Boric, Ali Williams and Filo Paulo are all injured - and Charles Piutau will make his Super Rugby debut at fullback.

The Blues have little to play for in their final two games but Lam didn't think motivation would be a problem.

"Everyone spoke about it at the start of the week," he said. "We are pretty privileged in the jobs we have. We all chose to play rugby. This is an opportunity to finish on a good note with our last game at Eden Park. There's a lot of motivation there - Tom McCartney's 50th game, [debut for] Charles Piutau. All the young guys coming through are pretty excited. It's about going out and playing the game they enjoy."

Blues team to play the Western Force at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday (7.30pm): Charles Piutau, Lachie Munro, Francis Saili, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Michael Hobbs, Piri Weepu, Luke Braid, Daniel Braid, Steven Luatua, Andrew Van der Heijden, Liaki Moli, Tevita Mailau, Keven Mealamu (c), Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Angus Ta'avao, Chris Lowrey, Peter Saili, Alby Mathewson, Orene Ai'i, Hadleigh Parkes.

Force: Alfie Mafi, Nick Cummins, Will Tupou, Winston Stanley, Napolioni Nalaga, Ben Seymour, Brett Sheehan, Lachlan McCaffery, Angus Cottrell, Richard Brown, Nathan Sharpe (c), Toby Lynn, Salesi Ma'afu, Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan. Reserves: Ben Whittaker, Ruan Smith, Ollie Atkins, Anare Koliavu, Josh Holmes, Kyle Godwin, Patrick Dellit.


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