Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Ma'a Nonu's decision remains a mystery

Ma'a Nonu's extension fell due last night. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ma'a Nonu's extension fell due last night. Photo / Mark Mitchell

On a day when the NZRU rejoiced about a new multimillion-dollar sponsorship, officials also believed bullocking midfielder Ma'a Nonu had signed on for more duty.

Nonu has been tinkering with a series of ideas about his future because he is unhappy that he cannot stay in Wellington and get a start with the Hurricanes.

Nonu was supposed to have an answer for the NZRU in the middle of the All Blacks' trip to Argentina and South Africa but was granted an extension, which fell due last night.

Inquiries drew no answer about his decision while the All Blacks are due to assemble in Christchurch tomorrow for training towards their third and final test with the Wallabies in Brisbane. The All Blacks will train in Christchurch until Thursday when they name their side and travel to Brisbane.

Coach Mark Hammett has not relented after rejecting him for that franchise roster so Nonu was forced to commute and play for the Blues this season.

He was able, after the World Cup, to play for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan and a repeat season there held some appeal. However that would mean a temporary fullstop, at least, on his 72-test All Black career and he was unsure whether that was his best path.

Once Sonny Bill Williams left in August for his short contract in Japan and beyond, Nonu moved back into second five-eighths and reasserted himself.

If he was to comply with residential qualifications in Japan he would need to pack up and leave after the All Blacks' final test against the Wallabies next Saturday.

There were hints he might move south to the Highlanders where All Black comrade Tony Woodcock has gone, hooker Andrew Hore lives and former test forward Brad Thorn is shifting.

Meanwhile, new Blues coach John Kirwan made his overtures.

Nonu was encouraged and concerned by both New Zealand deals and unsure whether to uproot his family again and farewell his All Black future if he journeyed to Japan.

Staying with the Blues would work and Kirwan had a bold and bright plan for the 2014 campaign. Nonu would be a cornerstone in a youthful backline with exciting talent like Baden Kerr and Charles Piutau.

However, Nonu wondered if his game would benefit more in a new franchise where he would get some respite from his long-time association with coaches such as Graham Henry and Mick Byrne. The Highlanders would be a fresh start, a chance to feel the work of Jamie Joseph with assistants Jon Preston and Scott McLeod and renew some friendships, but it was another upheaval.

- NZ Herald

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