Blues coach backs trans-Tasman competition

Blues coach Leon MacDonald is backing a proposed trans-Tasman tournament against Australian teams for 2021.

The Blues’ Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign was brought to an abrupt end after their final fixture against the Crusaders at a sold-out Eden Park was cancelled due to the new Covid-19 lockdown in Auckland.

Despite the anti-climactic conclusion, it was still an excellent tournament for the Blues, with the Auckland-based franchise – for so long the wooden-spoonists of the New Zealand conference – finishing second with five wins and two losses.

‘We’re immensely proud of everything that was going on in the organisation,’ Blues coach MacDonald said of their season. ‘That’s not just on the grass. As an organisation we’re making some good progress and we’re connecting really well with our community.

‘Our players are a big part of that. They’re really engaged and wanting to be part of something a little bit different and special up here. We feel like we’ve made some good progress and we’re pretty happy with how we’ve ended up this year.

‘We’ve had some good results, played some really good footy at times, and sometimes it’s been exceptional. We’ll get past this disappointment, but I think we’ve all got to reflect on a positive season and get excited about what’s ahead of us because we’ve got a pretty young group.’

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What lies ahead for the Blues in 2021 is still very much unknown at this stage. New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia chiefs are still trying to find common ground over a potential trans-Tasman tournament, with the number of Australian teams involved a particular sticking point.

MacDonald said that while he enjoyed the competitiveness of New Zealand Rugby’s domestic format, he would like to see the Australian teams get involved to add a different dimension to the competition.

‘In an ideal world, I would love to have the Australian teams involved. That just adds something different and new, and they’re just going to get better. I’ve watched their rugby quite closely, and week to week their teams are starting to get their mojo back. They look strong.

‘I’d still love to see the Australians involved in some capacity, but that’s the uncertainty we’re living with at the moment. Who knows with this Covid – it’s a day-by-day proposition.’

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