Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Blues backline a sight to behold

Sonny Bill Williams' re-signing has the potential to alter the Blues' fortunes. Photo / Getty
Sonny Bill Williams' re-signing has the potential to alter the Blues' fortunes. Photo / Getty

Sonny Blue Williams. That's a tinge his extended family and certainly the patient franchise supporters have been championing for some time.

Will SBW's arrival at Eden Park encourage others to change their Super rugby allegiance and will his move alter the Blues fortunes? Those issues will play out over the next three seasons if SBW's frame hangs together.

He's flitted around the rugby scene but this deal will allow the Auckland-born midfield back to settle into a senior role with the Blues who will hope that talent still flourishes.

Imagine the sort of backline they can select now without any more signings.

Agustine Pulu, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, SBW, Rene Ranger, George Moala and Reiko Ioane. That's some firepower to tack on to the forwards who have been doing the business.

That Blues backline looks to have some substance. It's not an ingredient which has provoked automatic thoughts about the Blues in recent seasons but this year you can distinguish some backbone about their work.

It showed in their attitude towards defence against the Crusaders where they hung in even though they were underdone on possession. When they had the pill there was still a diffidence about some of the decisions.

Pulu will make a difference in variety from halfback and beyond that SBW will provide another weapon to dent the opposition. Unless another five-eighths decides to hitch his talent to the new Blues caravan, West will wear the No 10 jersey.

Either side of him, Pulu and SBW can offer guidance so there is better match management to unfurl that muscle and pomp in the back four.

SBW will be 31 in August and the oldest in the Blues and All Black backlines.

It's no issue yet as he looks in superb condition and remains one of the more assiduous trainers in the sport. He looks after his physical and mental health with a variety of cross-training based around his family life.

There has been some noise about a problem knee which blows up from time-to-time and does not react favourably to long-distance travel. SBW's schedule will need to be managed and there may be a niggle or two about sevens and boxing.

But this is a big signing for the Blues and another sign of the bond between SBW and coach Tana Umaga.

This is not flaky like the Benji Marshall signing. This is a coup for the Blues and their fans who have been bereft of much warmth since their 2003 success. Will it deliver similar results? No idea but it will ramp up attention on Eden Park and what the Blues might achieve.

- NZ Herald

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