Blues in Highlander coup
New Blues coach John Kirwan has moved quickly to improve the quality of his team after a disastrous Super Rugby campaign.
He has signed Highlanders flyhalf Chris Noakes.
Noakes said the main reason he's signed is to go back home.
"I grew up in Auckland and that's where all my family is, so I'm looking forward to joining the Blues and settling down again in my home town – something I haven't done for many years," said Noakes.
"It has always been something in the back of the mind. It would be great to get home, and I think, you know, I'll love it."
Noakes is adamant the Blues form this year never entered his mind.
"They'll be the first to admit things went wrong, but no absolutely not, too many good players in the team to put me off that sort of thing."
Noakes has returned to his provincial union, Bay of Plenty for the 2012 NPC season and will head to Auckland to join the Blues franchise later in the year.
The 27-year-old was born in Orakei, Auckland and was a former Kings College 1st XV player.
Blues High Performance manager Nick Sheppard said Noakes is a welcome addition to the franchise.
"Chris has had a really solid season for the Highlanders on the back of an excellent BOP provincial campaign last year, so we were pretty keen to see him return to Auckland at this stage of his rugby career."
Also securing their futures with the Blues are three young players, products of the Blues wider development programme whose Super Rugby careers took off earlier than expected in 2012 – Charles Piutau, Francis Saili and Steven Luatua.
"Luatua really stepped up for the Blues this season when a serious tally of injuries thrust the young forward into the big time and he handled the speed and pressure of Super Rugby extremely well," Sheppard said.
"Following his national sevens commitments, we were lucky to have Charles Piutau at the tail end of the season and like his teammate Francis Saili proved, these two have got serious speed and ability."