Planet Rugby

Blues bring in West for Kerr

14th April 2014 06:54

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Ihaia West for Hawke s Bay

Ihaia West: Gets his chance

The Blues have bolstered their fly-half stocks by bringing in Hawke's Bay ITM Cup pivot Ihaia West to replace the injured Baden Kerr.

Kerr has been ruled out for the season after he required surgery to repair broken fingers and the Auckland-based franchise are set to announce that West would replace him on Monday.

Simon Hickey, Chris Noakes and Benji Marshall are all covering the pivot position for the Blues and West's call-up could be an indication that Marshall is set to continue as full-back rather than at fly-half.

"It's certainly really disappointing to be ruled out for the season," Kerr told the Blues' official website.

"But now the decision has been made I've just got to look at it positively, get in behind the boys and support them and make sure I can still be a positive contributor to the team."

As a result 22-year-old West, who spent a few weeks training with the Chiefs during the pre-season as injury cover, has been drafted into the Blues squad and arrived in Auckland earlier today.

"I'm really excited about getting this opportunity and I can't wait to join the Blues for training," said West.

"I'm looking forward to putting my head down, working really hard and hopefully if an opportunity to play arises I can take it with both hands."

Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said while he was disappointed to lose a player of Kerr's quality, he welcomed the talented West to the fold.

"I'm really happy to have Ihaia involved," he said.

"We looked at him long and hard pre-season and he was very much part of our thoughts.

"We just decided to go internally a little bit more with what we had in picking Simon Hickey, so with Baden unfortunately dropping out it's great for us to have Ihaia in and he's here for the rest of the season and we're excited about it.

"He's a naturally attacking 10 and he brings a bit of X-factor so that excites me. I think he can bring another dimension to the game."

Kirwan will also welcome back several players, who have recovered from injuries, ahead of Friday's crucial clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Keven Mealamu, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tom Donnelly, Peter Saili and Kane Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park and Jackson Willison are all back at training this week and are expected to be available for selection for the Hurricanes match.

Piri Weepu has also returned to training after a minor operation to repair a small hole in his heart and is expected to be available for selection again next week.

Kirwan is delighted to have a relatively full squad to choose from ahead of this weekend's encounter.

"The competition is better right across the board," Kirwan told Fairfax Media of a tight New Zealand conference.

"This week it's a huge game for the Canes and for us. Both of us are on 16 points, and everything's jammed between 16 and 25.

"Both teams need to win this week, and if you win you're keeping in touch and if you lose you're not out of touch but you're under pressure."

He also clarified the Blues' position on Marshall, who is reported to be considering bailing out of his two-year contract with the franchise due to the few playing opportunities he's received this season."

"I don't know where all the information is coming from," said Kirwan.

"We talk to each other every week about rugby and where he's heading. He's happy, and as far we're concerned he's here with us. We're happy with where we're going with it."

Kirwan said Marshall's frustrations with the time it's taking to adapt to his new code were not surprising.

"He's just about ready to say 'well, I've done my learning, here we go'," he added.

"We're trying to make sure we don't expose him from a tactical point of view but it's been frustrating for him.

"He's working hard on his game, and I think we're getting close to saying 'righto, here we go'. I've just got to get that timing right."

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