It's a rotten old business that the Blues, no matter how many different people they try at first-five, can't find the player they want or need.

It's reached the point where it's not ridiculous to wonder whether Carlos Spencer cursed the No 10 jersey when he vacated it, much against his will, in 2005.

For 12 years now the Blues have been left aghast at how little control, poise and class they have had from their chief playmaker. It's a riddle they just can't solve.

Every other franchise has managed it. Good 10s seem to be everywhere except the Blues. What's particularly strange is that a couple of players with genuine class and ability have come to the Blues, stuck on the No 10 shirt and crumbled.


Nick Evans came to Auckland in 2008, just months after he had been one of the few All Blacks to shine at the 2007 World Cup, and looked to be half the player he was. By the middle of the season, the Blues shifted him to fullback.

Luke McAlister, having lit up the English Premiership, came back to the Blues in 2010 tipped to make the World Cup squad as back-up to Daniel Carter. He, like Evans, faded so badly after a few games in the Blues No 10 shirt that he was also shifted to fullback.

The list of those who have tried and failed to ignite the Blues from first receiver is spectacularly long and unfortunately for coach Tana Umaga, may soon have the name Ihaia West added to it.

West was given first dibs on the jersey this season, but three games in, has had to make way for Piers Francis. And the reason..?

"Performance," says Umaga. "Ihaia realises that and when Piers [Francis] came on he made a difference. It is a tough one. We believe Ihaia has the skills but it comes back to performance. We recognise and realise the pressures that go on a No 10 especially at this club because of what has gone before. What can you do about that? That is just the life we live here in this city, at this club."

Just three weeks in and it seems as if West may have bitten the dust as a realistic prospect to blossom into the player the Blues were hoping he could become.

The door is now open for Francis to see if he can break the curse. The Englishman has been a minor revelation since he joined the squad last year - delivering steady performances at No 12 that have shown him to be a calming presence with the right sort of temperament to thrive at this level.

He'll need that temperament in Christchurch because an away fixture against the Crusaders is about as tough as it gets for the Blues.


They have not only lost their last two games, they have played poorly. They have struggled at set-piece, failed to retain what ball they have won and been inaccurate and erratic on attack.

Obviously the first problem is not really one Francis can fix, but Umaga has a firm view on what he is looking for from his No 10.

"I think just running our game, driving us into the right places, being able to adapt and deal with pressures and frustrations that we have. It is a tough job on our 10s and our forwards have taken it on the chin that they are not providing the ball for our backs and doing what they need to do."

For the moment, Umaga has ample faith in Francis. The Counties man has coveted the chance to be the Blues first choice No 10 for the last year and now his time has come.

He wants to break the curse and, who knows, he might do it. He might actually provide the Blues with the qualities they need. But it would be best to not be overly optimistic on that front.