The giant Cirque du Soleil big top is just a couple of clearing kicks from the Blues training pitch at Alexandra Park and, as the media throng arrived to talk to Ma'a Nonu today the players, and man himself, may have thought the circus really had come to town.

But, to continue a theme; roll up, roll up, because watching the veteran midfielder, who turns 37 in May, attempt to force his way back into the All Blacks and go to another World Cup is going to be one of the major storylines in this year's competition.

And that can only be a good thing for a Super Rugby tournament struggling to maintain traction as far as public interest is concerned, and the Blues themselves, who going by the past half dozen years or so need all the help they can get.

Can Nonu return to the form he enjoyed at the World Cup in 2015 after three years in the French rugby meatgrinder? We'll get an idea of that soon enough. On Saturday he will start for the Blues – probably at centre outside second-five TJ Faiane (with Nonu's mate Sonny Bill Williams on the reserves bench) – against the Crusaders, the defending champions determined to win three titles in a row for the second time in their history.


"I'm not really used to this attention, so thanks for coming," were Nonu's first words to the giant media throng.

He's always had a good sense of timing – comedy and otherwise –and so it could be that Nonu is just what the Blues, and All Blacks, need. The Blues need experience in their backline alongside young playmakers – and it will be 23-year-old Otere Black given the No10 jersey for the first block of games.

Ma'a Nonu talks to media at the Blues training session. Photo / Photosport
Ma'a Nonu talks to media at the Blues training session. Photo / Photosport

They also need an adherence to the basics and a hard, demanding attitude – on the playing field and training pitch. New coaches Leon MacDonald and Tom Coventry will help with that, but so will Nonu.

If he can cope with the defensive demands at centre at Super Rugby level after playing most of his international career at No12 that will be an indication that he indeed still has it.

No13s at this level need to be able to make split-second decisions on defence, which Nonu could still achieve as he is has always been one of the best tacklers in the game, but pace, too, and that's the big question.

For your All Black centre at the World Cup, write in Jack Goodhue's name if the Crusader is fit. In terms of the others - Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty – questions will remain around their ability to stay injury free. Battering ram Ngani Laumape has some developing to do regarding his subtle skills and communication.

With international defences creeping ever so closer to attacking backlines, the multi-skilled yet hard-charging Nonu could be just what the All Blacks need for a World Cup three-peat, and what a story that would be.