Braid to lead Blues in 2014

Date published: October 30 2013

Blues flanker Luke Braid has been named captain of the Auckland-based franchise for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

Blues flanker Luke Braid has been named captain of the Auckland-based franchise for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

The decision was revealed at the Blues squad announcement at Eden Park on Wednesday, and while Braid was overseas with the Maori All Blacks, he said it was a huge honour to captain the side.

“It means a lot to me being named captain of the Blues,” he revealed.

“The Blues have a proud history so watching them as a kid, being able to play for them and now to be given the opportunity to captain the side is pretty awesome.”

Braid's aspirations are simple – to win the Super Rugby competition in 2014.

“Everyone wants to win the competition,” he said.

“I think if everyone buys in and gets everything right any team can win the Super Rugby competition so we definitely want to try and win it.”

Blues boss Sir John Kirwan believes Braid, who briefly led the Blues in 2012 in the absence of Keven Mealamu, will make a success of the role.

“We just think he's the type of guy we need from an attitude point of view,” Kirwan said.

“He's not scared to drive high quality at training, he's not scared of anyone so he'll challenge people including the coaching staff and I think the consistency of his rugby is great for all of us.

“I think he's really going to grow into that role and I know he's really looking forward to the challenge.”

Kirwan said he was excited about a much more balanced squad in 2014 as he heads into his second campaign in charge along with fellow coaches Sir Graham Henry, Grant Doorey, Mick Byrne and Nick White.

“After our first season we had a really long look at what we needed and that was a little bit more experience to complement the excitement of our young guys,” he added.

“What we've tried to do is bring in some of that experience and keep the excitement so you'll see the squad is a lot more balanced but we've also kept a lot of youth, especially in the Wider Training Group.”

That experience comes in the form of World Cup winning All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu who have all returned to the franchise following stints away.

Only three players in the 32 man squad have yet to pull on the Blues jersey – promising Auckland lock Patrick Tuipulotu, experienced campaigner Tom Donnelly and star rugby league recruit Benji Marshall.

“Tom is a great reader of the line-outs, he's been around the traps a wee bit and he's relishing a new challenge. He'll really add to our locking intelligence which is what we need,” said Kirwan.

“I think the whole country is excited about someone like Patrick Tuipulotu. He's been in the New Zealand Under-20s, was a big contributor there and before getting injured during the ITM Cup we saw what he could do on that stage. He's a new kid on the block but he's also ready physically and hopefully mentally he'll step straight up and put some pressure on the other guys.

“And of course Benji Marshall – everyone's really excited about his involvement. He's already been in the organization and everyone is impressed with his professionalism and what he's going to bring so it's going to be great to see him grow into it.”

Both Pita Ahki and Lolagi Visinia have graduated from the Wider Training Group to join the main squad in 2014, paving the way for an exciting new crop of players such as Tevita Li, Simon Hickey and Tom Murday to join the extended squad.

Kirwan said after showing plenty of promise in his inaugural year at the helm, there would be mounting expectations for the Blues to deliver in 2014.

“The expectation around the country and especially around the franchise area will grow,” he explained.

People will be expecting a lot more; I'm expecting a lot more of myself, the coaching staff and the squad so that makes for a little bit more pressure but also a lot more excitement.

“Last year we talked about a rollercoaster and I think this year we need to talk about consistency of performance while on the rollercoaster – we don't want too many of the dips but we want to enjoy the highs and excitement of what a rollercoaster can offer.”

Blues squad for 2014:

Forwards: Tom McCartney (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), James Parsons (North Harbour), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland), Sam Prattley (Auckland), Angus Ta'avao (Auckland), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Tom Donnelly (Otago), Liaki Moli (Auckland), Culum Retallick (Bay of Plenty), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), Kane Barrett (Taranaki), Luke Braid (Auckland), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Steven Luatua (Auckland), Brendon O'Connor (Canterbury), Peter Saili (Auckland).

Backs: Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki), Bryn Hall (North Harbour), Piri Weepu (Auckland), Baden Kerr (Counties Manukau), Chris Noakes (Bay of Plenty), Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Ma'a Nonu (Wellington), Francis Saili (North Harbour), Jackson Willison (Waikato), Frank Halai (Counties Manukau), Benji Marshall (Auckland), George Moala (Auckland), Charles Piutau (Auckland), Lolagi Visinia (Auckland).

Wider training group: Joe Edwards (Auckland), Simon Hickey (Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour), Tom Murday (Northland), Albert Nikoro (Auckland).