New Zealand Rugby
Kirwan got over feelings to approach Nonu
ESPN Staff
October 22, 2013
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan (left) watches on, Highlanders v Blues, Super Rugby trial match, Queenstown Recreation Ground, New Zealand, February 15, 2013
Sir John Kirwan said he had been warned of Ma'a Nonu's reputation, but was unfazed © Getty Images

Sir John Kirwan says he approached Ma'a Nonu to get him into the Blues next year without any NZ Rugby pressure, but he had to get over himself to do it. The centre confirmed on Tuesday he had signed a two-year contract with the Blues, meaning his third Super Rugby team in as many seasons.

Kirwan was unhappy Nonu last year reneged on an earlier handshake agreement to stay and instead went to the Highlanders, for whom he had a miserable season.

The Blues' coach said the pair "cleared the air a wee bit" in Auckland a couple of weeks after Nonu left, and the player's from with the All Blacks convinced Kirwan to make an approach five weeks ago.

"I thought 'get over yourself JK, move on'," he told reporters on Tuesday. "I just decided to put the Blues first and say 'well, if there's a world-class number 12 available, why wouldn't you go and talk to him?'"

Nonu has been seen as something of a problem child in Super Rugby after being forced out of the Hurricanes in 2011, having an ordinary half-season with the Blues in 2012 after returning from Japan and a less than stellar 2013 with the Highlanders.

But Kirwan said he wasn't worried about Nonu's reputation. "People told me that about Rene Ranger last year as well, and I found Rene fantastic," he said. "I look at what Ma'a's doing in the All Blacks and there's not a bad word coming out of that environment, and I think it's really up to us at the Blues and our environment to get the best out of Ma'a."

There was a prospect no New Zealand franchise would pick Nonu and he would be forced to play overseas, but Kirwan said there was no pressure from NZ Rugby. Aiding his cause is the fact former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and skills coach Mick Byrne, who have both had success with Nonu, are part of the Blues' set-up.

Kirwan didn't see a problem with having Nonu and 2013 All Black Francis Saili in the same team, saying he could see Saili thriving at centre.

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