Auckland Blues captain – Xavier Rush – has signed a three year contract with Cardiff and looks set to head for Wales in November. The big ball carrying number eight has an illustrious career behind him with caps at junior and senior level: U19, U21 and eight All Black caps secured in a career stretching back to his first appearance for New Zealand against Australia in 1998.
Rush has a reputation for doing the basics well, and is a born leader of men. Unlike some recent signings by Cardiff, Rush could prove to be the astute addition that the club has been missing since the departure of Peter Muller. Rush could provide the vital ingredient missing from recent seasons when there’s been a marked lack of control at the back of the scrum. The team has cried out for a physical presence to hold the youngsters together and instill some much needed confidence, and Rush could well provide the lift the club needs.
Rush captained New Zealand at U19 and U21 before going on to be selected by Graham Henry to play for the Blues when still playing U21 rugby. Having secured his first U21 cap, later on that season he went on to make his All Blacks debut. Captain of the Auckland Blues since 2001, Rush successfully led his province to the NPC title in 2002 and 2003 and also to victory in the Ranfurly Shield in 2003. In the same year, Rush led the Blues to their first Super 12 title – their third title and the first for six years. So 2003 was a big year for Rush, completing the coveted treble – Super 12, Ranfuly Shield and NPC titles.
Also in 2003 he returned to play for New Zealand after an absence of six years. But his star is on the wane and there’s tough competition challenging him for a place in Henry’s All Blacks. Rush’s eighth cap against South Africa last season would seem to be his last, with Mose Tuiali’i the favourite to inherit his crown.
Rush has always been one of Henry’s favourites, and the former Welsh coach is on record as claiming that both Rush and Carlos Spencer were the most influential players in Auckland rugby over the past seven or eight seasons. Rush has played 95 times for the Blues.
Rush’s his salary is rumoured to be as little as 100,000 Euro a year – a relative bargain in the current climate. It’s hardly the strength of squad that has attracted Rush to his new employers. He’s already admitted he hasn’t a clue about who play for Cardiff.
It seems that the number eight will not join Cardiff until November when the Celtic League will break for theautumn internationals. So it could be as late as December before we see the Auckland man wear the blue and black jersey for the first time.
Rush claims that he is not after a retirement package in coming to Cardiff and still has much to offer the capital city-based club. Having only yesterday officially announced his departure to the Cardiff Club, he can look back on a career in New Zealand where he played more than 165 matches for the Blues and Auckland.
It seems that he consulted with Henry before making his decision, and Cardiff can be thankful that the strong ties between Henry and Dai Young remain. Last season, Henry drafted Young in to work on the All Blacks scrummaging, and now it seems that Henry is repaying Young’s support.
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