Blues preview 2013
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: February 12, 2013 11:46am
The Auckland franchise have promised so much in recent years but failed to deliver. Much was expected from them last season after they reached the 2011 semi-finals (where they lost to the eventually champions, the Reds) and recruited well.
However the Blues registered just the four wins and were 18 points adrift of the Highlanders at the bottom of the New Zealand Conference.
That form ultimately cost Pat Lam his job with former All Blacks winger and Italy and Japan coach John Kirwan handed the job of turning things around.
However Kirwan faces an uphill battle with a host of key names having departed in the off-season, including the likes of Jerome Kaino, Gareth Anscombe, Lachie Munro, Ma'a Nonu, Benson Stanley, Isaia Toeava, Tony Woodcock and Rudi Wulf.
There is still plenty of quality within the squad, though, including Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams, Luke Braid, Piri Weepu and Rene Ranger - while Kirwan has brought in Frank Halai, Baden Kerr, Chris Noakes, Culum Retallick and Jackson Willison.
The Blues do look strong up-front, while Weepu looks fit and hungry for the new season. However they do lack experience at fly-half as well as across their back division.