Captain Kaino to the Rescue? Can the enforcer inspire a Blue revival to good times?

Posted by Stuff on 29th Oct 2014

Jerome Kaino will captain the Blues next year.

The 54-test blindside flanker was on Wednesday announced to replace Luke Braid at the helm for the 2015 season.

"Jerome brings everything you want in a captain - leadership on the field, leadership off the field," Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said as he revealed his 38-strong squad for next year that featured four newcomers.

"He is also an X-factor player. As a team we want to be resilient and relentless and Jerome is that sort of player.

"Luke is coming off injuries but we have been in close communication and this is something he is fully supportive about. Leadership has been good for Luke and he will stay in that role as one of our leadership group."

The new players have been largely well flagged with former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan, after three years in the English Premiership, Josh Bekhuis, the two-metre tall lock with 81 Super Rugby caps for the Highlanders over six seasons, Manawatu second five-eighth Hamish Northcott and former Crusaders and Highlanders utility back Dan Bowden returning after stints in England and Japan.

One surprise, however, is the omission of Counties Manukau first five-eighth Baden Kerr.

Kirwan is pleased to have the bulk of his 2014 squad returning, but also delighted with the quality of his new signings.

The pack is further enhanced with the reappearance of Blues and current Bay of Plenty lock Culum Retallick and former New Zealand Schools captain and All Blacks Under-20 loose forward, Joe Edwards, who both missed the majority of the last Super Rugby season with injury.

All Blacks Sevens talent, Ben Lam, the big, fast-stepping winger who was in the winning World Sevens and the Commonwealth Games teams, has his chance at the 15-a-side game after an injury-plagued 2014 season.

Twenty-nine players are from within the Blues region, one of the highest number of any New Zealand Super Rugby team, with a strong emphasis on building its base with only four newcomers, with the six developing young players in the wider training group all promoted out of the region's development programme.

The cornerstone of the Blues will be the pack that includes six All Blacks - Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Kaino, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu and Steven Luatua who boast 325 test caps between them.

"I am happy with the balance of the squad between the All Blacks, a group of players who now have experience to understand what Super Rugby demands and some young players that we need to nurture for the future of our team," Kirwan said.

"As an organisation we are just a year old and have a much more settled front and back office with a discernible plan from which we can build.

"Where possible we've looked inside this Blues area for our players especially for our developing young players.

"That said, we've got some excellent new signings like Bekhuis, Cowan and Northcott."

Kirwan is clear about his goals for the team this year, which will be measured by performance on and off the field.

"We will see success measured around more consistency, the players playing for each other, for our sponsors and our fans, and making our people proud of the way they play.

"Everyone talks about where we finish in the competition ladder. But we need to focus on getting those core things right and then the results will look after themselves.

"Obviously we all want to win. We want to create sustained success and to do that all the pillars of the organisation have to be in order and we are getting those in place.

"Our philosophy as a team in 2015 is to be relentless, uncompromising and hard-working. That's probably an ideal description for the likes of Kaino, Braid, Cowan and Keven Mealamu and I think all our players want to aspire to that."

2015 BLUES SQUAD

Forwards: Josh Bekhuis (Southland), Luke Braid (Auckland), Joe Edwards (Auckland), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland), Blake Gibson (Auckland), Jerome Kaino (Auckland, captain), Will Lloyd (Auckland), Steven Luatua (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Matt Moulds (Northland), Brendon O'Connor (Hawkes Bay), James Parsons (Northland), Greg Pleasants-Tate (North Harbour), Sam Prattley (Auckland), Culum Retallick (Bay of Plenty), Peter Saili (Auckland), Angus Ta'avao (Taranaki), Hayden Triggs (North Harbour), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour).

Backs: Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Dan Bowden (Northland), Jimmy Cowan (Tasman), Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki), Frank Halai (Counties Manukau), Bryn Hall (North Harbour), Simon Hickey (Auckland), Ben Lam (Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour), George Moala (Auckland), Melani Nanai (Auckland), Hamish Northcott (Manawatu), Charles Piutau (Auckland), Francis Saili (Auckland), Matt Vaega (North Harbour), Lolagi Visinia (Auckland), Ihaia West (Hawkes Bay).

- Stuff