Silence continues to prevail at Hurricanes HQ, but there are finally signs that Ma’a Nonu’s departure will not spark a mass exodus from the capital.
though unwanted by the Hurricanes, it has emerged Nonu could wear the Lions jersey again when he returns from a lucrative four-month sabbatical with the Ricoh Rams in Japan.
Nonu was granted an early release from his Wellington Rugby Union contract to register as a Japanese player, meaning he cannot play for any New Zealand province or club this year.
However, the Wellington union has left the door ajar for his 10-year, 61-match Lions career to continue in 2012 when he will need to have taken some part in the ITM Cup to be eligible for the all Blacks’ end-of-year tour.
More pressing concerns for the Hurricanes and coach Mark Hammett are that all Blacks Piri Weepu, Cory Jane, Hosea Gear and Aaron Cruden all remain unsigned after a turbulent Super Rugby campaign.
but after confirming Nonu’s two-year deal with the Blues and sabbatical in Japan, New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew seemed to allay fears the Hurricanes would be a lemon.
“They are working their way through that and James Te Puni [Hurricanes chief executive] has a good handle on that now.
“The feedback we’re getting from the players is positive so I’m hopeful they will have their roster firmed up in the next few weeks.”
the NZRU took a “neutral stance” in where players chose to play their Super Rugby, but Tew said financial constraints meant they would not all end up in one place.
“For example, if one of the franchises was thinking they might sign Hosea Gear, Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, there is no franchise that can afford all three, so in a way it [the budget] is helping spread the talent.”
though Te Puni has decided not to talk while negotiations are progressing, it appears those constraints are leaving some Hurricanes players with few choices.
Weepu is believed to be close to re-committing, Gear said this week he will take his time and Jane, who will turn out for Upper Hutt in Wellington club rugby today, has remained silent.
Tew hoped most NZRU contracts would be sewn up by the end of the month, but conceded some high-profile players could leave their decisions until the World Cup.
of most concern to the Hurricanes must be the future of first five-eighth Aaron Cruden who is weighing up whether to head to Hamilton to join his mentor Dave Rennie at the Chiefs.
Should Cruden and-or Jane leave, New Zealand under-20 first five-eighth or fullback Beauden Barrett must become a priority signing, if he is not already.
in announcing his future yesterday, Nonu revealed nothing about his controversial departure from the Hurricanes with media told that he would not answer questions on the subject.
for Tew’s part, he denied Nonu’s axing had come as a “bombshell” and left the NZRU scrambling to arrange a deal to keep him in New Zealand.
“We have a very close relationship with all five coaching panels and all the players, and we are always trying to manage those tensions as closely as we possibly can,” he said.
– the Dominion Post