Blues stars insist they remain focused
April 22, 2008
Blues players involved in negotiations over their playing futures deny they have been distracted from the the franchise's Super 14 rugby campaign.
Utility back Isa Nacewa today became the latest New Zealander to announce his intention to head to Europe, saying he had signed with Irish club Leinster.
Others tipped to follow him overseas include his Super 14 teammates Nick Evans and Troy Flavell.
However, all three today said that their immediate focus remained on lifting the Blues' fortunes.
Having topped the table after round three, the Blues are back in seventh spot and in danger of missing the semifinals.
Nacewa, who will join Leinster on a two-year contract after the Super 14, said he was glad his future had been sorted.
"I just wanted it out of the way and to focus on the Blues' campaign," he said.
"My main focus is on the Super 14 -- the Crusaders this week and the Blues for the rest of the season."
Nacewa, 25, said the decision to leave Auckland was a difficult one.
He had enjoyed his time with the Blues and with Auckland, but had to make the most of his career while he could.
He pointed to lifestyle and the desire to travel as the biggest reasons for his impending move.
Another factor was the barrier preventing him from pursuing his All Blacks dream because of the couple of minutes he spent on the field as a substitute for Fiji during the 2003 World Cup.
Under international eligibility rules, players can play for only one country during their career.
Nacewa said he also had talks with French clubs, but the offer from Leinster was a good one and he had always wanted to go to Ireland.
Nacewa has appeared 40 times for the Blues, having made his Super 14 debut in 2005 against the Highlanders. He has also represented Auckland 54 times.
Coach David Nucifora said he was not surprised by news of Nacewa's departure because he had been in demand for some time.
"He is such an outstanding player to have in your lineup and has the ability to cover nearly every backline position," he said.
"His authority and leadership within this squad is exemplary."
Nucifora was sure that Nacewa had not been distracted from the job at hand while contemplating his options.
"Isa is a very mature bloke," he said.
"I've got total confidence that it was far from a distraction for him and he will just get on with playing the best football he can."
Evans, who has been linked with several European clubs, said the question of where he would be playing next year was something he had pushed to the back of his mind.
"My focus is solely on the Blues at the moment," the first five-eighth said.
But Evans admitted that the issue was "something I would like to get out of the way sooner rather than later".
Flavell, who returned to New Zealand from Japan in 2006 with last year's World Cup in mind only to miss selection, said contract negotiations could be a distraction for an individual.
But the lock/loose forward and skipper of the Blues added: "On a team basis, we're getting on with the job.
"Isa is a professional and he'll get on with the job."
Capped 22 times for his country, Flavell said his own future was "probably offshore at this stage".
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