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NZRU contacts 'Canes over Nonu - Smith

 Jul 31,2013
Written by: SARugby.com Editor
 

Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith has confirmed the New Zealand Rugby Union approached the Wellington-based franchise about signing Ma'a Nonu.

Smith admitted that his All Blacks midfield partner will have to make some adjustments before he will be welcomed back to the franchise, who he (Nonu) represented in 110 matches before departing in acrimonious circumstances in 2011.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett ejected Nonu from his team he viewed the world class midfielder as a disruptive influence.

Nonu moved to the Blues, where he had an unsuccessful stint in 2012, and joined the Highlanders this year where he also battled in an unsuccessful team.

Hurricanes skipper Smith confirmed he discussed Nonu's return with Hammett and that the NZRU made attempts to improve the relationship between the inside centre and his former coach.

"Mark Hammett said the NZRU had approached them [Hurricanes]," Smith told Fairfax Media.

"He wanted to get my opinion. I was literally a two minute conversation," Smith said as the All Blacks assembled for a two-day camp in Auckland.

"I anticipate I will be asked about it in the next few weeks. It's being dealt with at a higher level and I can honestly say I don't know what stage it's at.

"In terms of playing ability I'd love to have him there, but I appreciate there is a bigger picture and a lot of other things to go through."

When asked if he thought Nonu could return to the Hurricanes environment after falling out with Hammett, after a deep breath and a lengthy pause Smith hinted he was in favour of Nonu's return.

"I don't know," he added. That's obviously why it's taken as long as it has and there's a bit to go through.

"I don't know where it's going to end up. There'd have to be a bit of shifting on his account. I'm always an optimist. I think that can be done.

"It's pretty unique and I don't think it will happen a lot. I'm optimistic it will come to a conclusion there's just a few things that have to be worked through."

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen revealed he would not tread on Hammett's toes and would, therefore, steer clear of the situation.

Hansen spoke with Nonu on Tuesday and sensed he was relaxed, despite being without a Super Rugby team for 2014.

"He's in great shape mentally," Hansen said.

"I don't see it in his face and in his conversation. He's a strong enough man to back himself.

"He's focusing on being here and doing it well. At this point he knows he can't control things. But he knows when he is here he has to play well.

"That's the best advertisement he can have for himself. We reinforcement that when we had a chat last night."

Hansen suggested the key to getting the best out of Nonu was to reinforce the fact no individual was bigger than the team.

"I don't know what they don't do," he offered on why Nonu hadn't produced the same form in Super Rugby.

"He's got clear expectations here like everybody else. If you don't there's a consequence. Each individual parcel makes up the whole of the All Blacks.

"We've got a culture, a philosophy that the team comes first. We drive that everyday. We've never had a problem."

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Tags: Super Rugby |  Hurricanes | 
 
 
 
 

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