Auckland Blues

Beauden Barrett sets phenomenal personal best time in fitness drill as Blues resume training

It’s been more than two months since the Auckland franchise played their last match against the Lions at Eden Park on March 14 after Super Rugby was suspended due to international travel restrictions enforced because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The five New Zealand franchises resumed training on Monday, though, and the Blues welcomed their backs to their Alexandra Park base in Epsom to kickstart their pre-season with a fitness test known as the Bronco.

Steven Luatua interested in making a return to the Blues

The 15-cap All Black left Kiwi shores in 2017 to venture north and take up a contract with the Bristol Bears; a move he hoped would add to his game.

Still just 28, there’s plenty of life left in Luatua’s career and speaking to Sky Sport’s Breakdown show he said he still had a goal to achieve with the Blues in Super Rugby.

“One of my goals was always to come back and play 100 games for the Blues – I think I’m 20 or 30-odd short so that’s a couple of seasons,” he said.

Boots on for Barrett at Blues

Hot on the heels of their upset win over his former team, the All Blacks star has joined his new Super Rugby side on the training paddock for the first time this week.

The return of the Blues' marquee signing and former Hurricanes No 10 from an extended break has arrived slightly earlier than some expected.

As much as he relished his post-Rugby World Cup holiday, Barrett said there was a clear moment when his mindset shifted.

"It was a really good break, until Super Rugby kicked off in round one and then my feet started to get itchy.

Sotutu rest gives Ioane opportunity

The one-match All Black missed out on a starting spot in the team's first five matches of 2020 thanks to the impressive form of 21-year-old Hoskins Sotutu.

But with Sotutu rested after the Blues back-to-back wins in South Africa, Ioane has been given the number eight jersey for Saturday night's clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The selection was one of several changes to a Blues side on a short week after only returning from their successful trip to South Africa on Tuesday.

Head coach Leon MacDonald said the decisions were based on a finding from last year.

Blues go back-to-back in SA

Backing up their 23-21 win over the Bulls last weekend, the Auckland-based side scored a convincing 33-14 win over the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday morning (NZ time).

The Blues led 27-14 at halftime, thanks to a brace of tries from English centre-turned-winger Joe Marchant and another from flanker Dalton Papali'i.

The second half wasn't so free-flowing, with the visitors defence shining as the kept the Stormers scoreless and ended their unbeaten start to the season.

Blues snatch win in Pretoria

It's the Blues' second win of the season and lifts them to third in the New Zealand conference, four points behind the Chiefs and five behind the Crusaders.

"It's always hard to come to Africa. Coming to Loftus against a Bulls side against the wall, they pretty much fought to the end. We had to work hard for it and I'm pretty pleased," Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu told local broadcaster Supersport.

It's the Blues' first win in Pretoria in eight years.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald reveals his plan for Akira Ioane

Coach Leon MacDonald said he had room for only one specialist No8 among the loose forward make-up, and that the impressive form of Hoskins Sotutu meant Akira, Rieko’s older brother, missed out.

“This will allow Akira to continue his preparations at home to be fast and ready to add fresh input to the team on our return to take on the Hurricanes in three weeks,” MacDonald said.

Rieko Ioane missing big brother Akira in Blues milestone

The elder brother has long been regarded as one of the most talented loose forwards in NZ rugby, but has so far fallen short of his potential, playing just once for the national side, despite ample opportunities to impress.

Akira Ioane, 24, has already logged a half ton for the Blues - including every game for the past two seasons - but coach Leon MacDonald insists he's one of several unlucky players to miss the cut for the opening game of the new Super Rugby season, making way for Hoskins Sotutu's first start at No.8.

Barrett to start mid-April at Blues

Coach Leon MacDonald told reporters in Auckland on Friday that Barrett had attended some training sessions with his new team mates but was not expected "on the grass" until mid-April.

Barrett signed a four-year contract with the Blues in July, ending an eight-year association with the Hurricanes. The contract allowed him the extended break ahead of the 2020 season and also the option to pursue a short-term deal in Japan.

He could make his debut for the Blues in Week 11 of the competition, when they face the Hurricanes on April 11.

Beauden Barrett to join Blues next year

Barrett – a two-time World Rugby Player of the Year – has penned a four-year contract to keep him in New Zealand through to the end of the 2023 World Cup.

But the 28-year-old and 73-cap New Zealand international will represent the Blues at club level from 2020, leaving Super Rugby rivals the Hurricanes, where he broke through in 2011.

The complex new contract will see first five-eighth Barrett join the Blues midway through the 2020 season, however, as he takes an extended break from rugby at the end of this year.