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Super Rugby - Highlanders
Ma'a Nonu welcome back in Dunedin
July 4, 2013
New Zealand's Ma'a Nonu is shackled by the France defence, New Zealand v France, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, June 22, 2013
Does Ma'a Nonu reserve his best for the All Blacks? © Getty Images
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Ma'a Nonu is welcome back at the Highlanders next year despite a controversial and mediocre Super Rugby season that ended prematurely when he was banned for three weeks for a tip tackle on Crusaders wing Tom Marshall. There has been intense speculation since about which franchise Nonu will play for next year, but Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has no intention of turning his back on the All Blacks centre.

"Ma's got a lot of thinking to do," Joseph said. "He had a very good All Black campaign in June but now that he has to take time out I'm sure that he will be thinking about his future. Ma'a is a quality player, isn't he? Any team which has the opportunity to take him on board would."

The Highlanders are facing the loss of outside backs Hosea Gear, Tamati Ellison and Kade Poki, so Joseph will welcome the retention of Nonu to provide continuity to a team that will feature a lot of new faces next season.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, meanwhile, said "You never say never " when asked if Nonu could return to the franchise he left in controversial circumstances at the end of 2011.

The 11th-placed Hurricanes have begun planning for 2014 after slipping out of Super Rugby play-offs contention with last weekend's 34-22 loss to the competition-leading Chiefs, but Hammett said he hadn't yet considered the possibility of Nonu's return.

"We've got a good bunch of midfielders and good young kids coming through," he said. "[But] we're always looking at our squad moving forward. You never say never."

Nonu, 31, played 110 games for the Hurricanes from 2003 to 2011 but he wasn't offered a contract beyond that after falling out with Hammett. He played one disappointing season for the Blues last year before leaving under a cloud to join the Highlanders. But his disappointing form with the Highlanders has created a perception that Nonu saves his best rugby for the All Blacks, for whom he has played 79 Tests.

© Sportal with AAP
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