Saturday 16 December 2017 / 11:51 PM

WHERE TO NOW FOR BLUES AND IHAIA WEST?

If you want to talk about a player with unfulfilled potential, look no further than Blues No.10 Ihaia West, who was dumped from Tana Umaga’s starting line-up for tonight’s crunch clash with the Crusaders.

The realms of possibility seemed limitless for West after he burst onto the scene in 2012 with the New Zealand Under-20s and Hawke’s Bay. But three seasons of Super Rugby later, West can’t say he hasn’t been a major disappointment at a franchise that continues to underperform.

As I wrote in my team preview prior to the season, each year pundits and media experts alike jump on the hype train and ask questions of just how far the Blues will go in the season ahead due to their talented youngsters and a couple of big signings.

In general, the Blues have been below average for several years now. The xdlast time the club won a Super Rugby title was in 2003. Since Carlos Spencer, the Blues haven’t had any impact at the crucial position of first five-eighths.

Now granted, West has shown signs of his abilities and he certainly isn’t the worst guy that the Blues could use. Last year, West kicked with a decent success (70% on penalties) and scored four tries as one of the most dangerous ball-running No.10s around.

You could even argue that West is a victim of circumstance, but look at what happened last weekend against the Highlanders at Eden Park. West looked like the pressure had gotten to him, as if he knew that this was his one last chance to show he deserves to be the first choice.

This week, Piers Francis has been selected to start in West’s place. Fans have been calling for Francis to be given the reins for a long time now, and they get their wish on Friday when the Blues head to Christchurch.

When it comes to West, how many chances will he get in the future? A few yet, but they may be limited in the Blues jersey for the diminutive 25-year-old.

On the list of New Zealand’s best No.10 options, West sits well below those on top. He was on a hiding to nothing when All Blacks Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter and Lima Sopoaga were the linchpins at the other four Super Rugby franchises, but now he has surely been usurped by younger stars Damian McKenzie and Richie Mo’unga in the pecking.

It’s just too hard to see him climbing up that list anytime soon, either.

[YouTube – Rugby Montages HD]

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Michael Pulman

Based in Hamilton (NZ), Michael is Commentary Box Sports' rugby union and cricket expert

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