Dan Bowden is not back home simply to make up the numbers or offer a viable alternative off the Blues bench.

The 28-year-old new Blues signing does not have to learn the game from scratch either, unlike a certain Benji Marshall, after a four-year rugby odyssey that saw him strut his stuff in England and Japan.

No, Bowden shapes as a more mature head to slot into the Blues' five-eighths plans, probably in the No 10 jersey. Colin Slade may have appealed as a strong solution to the Blues' deep-seated No10 travails, but he was not realistically going to leave Canterbury.

Ihaia West took his chance well in the second half of the 2014 campaign, while Simon Hickey is one of the nation's best goalkickers.


Bowden may not have the pace of West or the accuracy off the tee of Hickey, but he brings priceless experience, a strong, long passing game and an ability to take the ball to the line.

Coach John Kirwan sees him as a 10 who can cover 12. That suits the confident Bowden, meaning we may see a potentially useful Jimmy Cowan-Bowden-Francis Saili-Pita Ahki combination.

"There are so many good players, but JK has made it pretty clear to me he sees me as a 10. I might have the older head with experience.

"It's what's best for the team, but if it was up to me, I'd prefer to play 10 at this stage," said Bowden, not long back from Japan.

He admits to having watched the Blues from afar with a frustrated air: "I struggle to pick my finger on it, because there is literally so much talent, with a number of options in each position. There's good depth, but it's just that consistency. One issue they are trying to address is a very poor record away from home, trying different routines. I don't think injuries have helped either."

Bowden turned heads in England, first with London Irish - soon after appearing in a Super Rugby semifinal at second five for the Crusaders - and won the player of the year. A switch to Leicester saw him move one out to accommodate Toby Flood. More honours followed, such as the try of the year (a team rather than solo effort) and the Aviva Premiership title.

He signed a short-term contract with Yamaha Jubilo, where he chalked up a heap of goalkicking practice.

But were it not for a freakish cheekbone injury at the start of last year, Bowden might have found himself in the England squad, jostling for position with men like Owen Farrell, George Ford and Danny Cipriani.

"It came at a really bad time. I did it when I was just on the edge of the England set-up and then I missed 12 weeks," he said.

"Initially I went to England because I was told I wouldn't be in the 2011 RWC squad. Fair enough, there were a few superstars. I was then shoulder-tapped by England after a couple of years and had to think about that as an option. But here there's five franchises, over there there are 12 teams, so there's a lot more players."

Bowden loved his rugby travels, but is equally content to be back home to chase success with one of the competition under-achievers. "First and foremost, I would like this franchise to be successful. Over the last years we haven't fulfilled our potential. When I walk into the room, there are so many talented kids in there.

"On a personal note, you can never say 'never'. I'd love to see how far I could go, but there are some pretty good players there with runs on the board. I have to do what's right here first."

3 things about Dan Bowden

Man of many jerseys

The Blues are Bowden's third Super Rugby franchise, following stints with the Highlanders and Crusaders. He has also played for three different ITM Cup teams and two sides in England's Aviva Premiership.

Early start
Bowden made his first class debut for Northland at age 18.

Finally in blue
Bowden was part of the Blues wider training group in 2005 - a decade-long wait to make his debut.