As John Kirwan sets about assembling a side which can get Blues rugby back on track following the worst performance in the franchise’s history in 2012 he has enlisted the help of experienced flanker Brendan O’Connor, whose time at the champion Crusaders outfit will be hugely beneficial in a squad which boasts no less than 16 new faces.
The 23-year old O’Connor, a former member of the New Zealand U-20 side, was in the Canterbury system for a couple of years, being a member of the Crusaders’ wider training group in 2012 and earning two Super Rugby caps. He also took the field on 17 occasions for the Canterbury NPC side, although his career development was stalled by the presence of first-choice openside flanker Matt Todd in Christchurch, not to mention Richie McCaw, Keiran Read and George Whitelock.
Having come through the system at esteemed Rugby school Gisborne Boys High O’Connor has also agreed terms with the Hawkes Bay Magpies for the ITM Cup, seeing him return to the geographical region where he grew up.
Despite his tender years O’Connor could well be a senior member of Kirwan’s young side, and the coach’s decision to leave out veteran campaigner and former All Black Daniel Braid from his 32-man squad means the opportunities for him are very real. Although he was recently sidelined with a knee injury which he sustained playing for his club side University in Christchurch O’Connor will be ready and raring to go when the Blues’ campaign kicks off in late February.