Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Nonu eyeing move south

Kirwan forced to confirm midfielder amid rumours of another Blues defection.

If Ma'a Nonu follows Tony Woodcock south, he'll be leaving after only one season with the Blues. Photo / Greg Bowker
If Ma'a Nonu follows Tony Woodcock south, he'll be leaving after only one season with the Blues. Photo / Greg Bowker

Ma'a Nonu is the latest All Black rumoured to be looking into a move from the Blues to the Highlanders, but coach Sir John Kirwan insists the midfielder will be a key part of his side next season.

Only days after the franchise ann-ounced experienced All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock was heading south in a surprise move, Kirwan has been forced to pledge his commitment to keeping Nonu.

If the former All Blacks wing wanted a smooth transition into his new role after replacing Pat Lam, the reality is proving different.

"I'm really excited that Ma'a is part of our team and I'm looking forward to working with him," Kirwan said.

"He is contracted to the Blues next season and I see him very much as a key member of our squad in the 2013 Blues campaign."

Kirwan wasn't available to comment on the whispers that Nonu was looking further afield after only one season at the Blues. And they increased in Dunedin yesterday after the second-five was evasive when asked about his plans for next season before tomorrow's All Blacks test against the Springboks in the city.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph was also coy yesterday when asked about the prospect of signing Nonu, a 30-year-old veteran of 69 tests for the All Blacks.

"I wish, but I don't think so," he said.

Monday is deadline day for franchises to inform the New Zealand Rugby Union and players' association of any intended "delisted" players - those they wish to move on by mutual agreement or otherwise - which accounts for some of the recent rumours of player movement.

Joseph is understood to be interested in signing former Chiefs utility Dwayne Sweeney, now playing in Japan, but denied a scheduled trip there had been planned with new players in mind. "I go there every year. I lived there for eight years and have an affiliation with a club there [Sanix]."

Another player in Japan interested in a return to New Zealand rugby is former All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina, who left to play for the NTT Docomo club in Osaka after last year's World Cup. The 32-year-old, who has played 100 tests, would be highly valued at the Blues following the departures of Isaia Toeava, Rudi Wulf and Lachie Munro.

So far the Blues have been busy signing developing players. It's understood they have secured the services of 20-year-old North Harbour halfback Bryn Hall - the Highlanders were also interested - and have already announced the signings of Crusaders flanker Brendon O'Connor, Southland outside back Marty McKenzie and Auckland prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

They still require an experienced replacement for Woodcock and they remain short of quality locks and outside backs.

- APNZ

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