Wellington – All
Blacks centurion Ma’a Nonu has ended his time in France and said on Thursday he
is returning to New Zealand to play Super Rugby for the Blues.
The 36-year-old has been playing for Toulon in the French
Championship since being part of the 2015 World Cup-winning New Zealand side.
The powerhouse midfielder has taken up a 12-month contract
with the Blues, his third stint with the club.
“I have been playing rugby a long time. I’ve known
first-hand the highs and the lows of a playing career on and off the field and
I am looking forward to giving my best and proving that I can still play at
this level,” he said.
“I know the Blues have had some tough times in the last
few seasons but I am excited to play with some of the young and up-and-coming
players who will have long careers and rejuvenate this place.”
The Blues finished second to last on the overall table this
year, just ahead of Japan’s Sunwolves, and coach Tana Umaga believes Nonu’s
experience will be influential in turning around their fortunes.
The team’s end-of-year review “showed that our
backline, while talented and exciting, lacked an experienced figure on a
regular basis in the midfield due to injury,” Umaga said.
“Next season will throw up some other challenges with a
new format without the international break. And players in line for the World
Cup, like Sonny Bill Williams, will likely be monitored more closely.”
Umaga said that included the likes of Rieko Ioane, who
filled the centre role for much of this Super season and who he wants to see back
in his likely All Black position on the wing.
“We think Ma’a can play an important role for us and I
am sure he can deliver on the field as well as help guide our young
players,” he said.