WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu has buried the hatchet with Auckland Blues coach John Kirwan and is heading back to the Super Rugby franchise.
Nonu, who appeared to have burned his bridges with the Blues after joining the Highlanders this season, has signed a two-year deal that will make him eligible for All Blacks selection for the 2015 World Cup.
"Ma'a has been in brilliant form for the All Blacks and we're thrilled to welcome him back to the Blues," Kirwan said in a joint statement with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).
"He's one of the best midfielders in the world so to have someone with his abilities is a huge asset to the squad."
Nonu's playing future had been a concern for the NZRU this season after he walked away from a contract extension with the Highlanders, a year after joining them from the Blues.
He joined the Blues for the 2012 Super Rugby season after being told by Wellington Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett in 2011 that he was not in his plans for the future.
After it became clear the inside centre was not returning to Dunedin and he expressed a desire to return to his home town, Nonu met with Hammett but the Wellington-based franchise did not offer him a contract.
The NZRU had been increasingly resigned to Nonu playing abroad in the first part of 2014, creating selection issues for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen due to a policy restricting the national team to players contracted to New Zealand-based sides.
The 31-year-old said he had been offered an overseas contract - local media had earlier reported it was with a French club - but he wanted to remain in New Zealand.
"I am excited to be staying in New Zealand and returning to play my rugby with the Blues," said Nonu, who has played 85 tests for the All Blacks and more than 100 Super Rugby games for the Hurricanes, Blues and Highlanders.
"While I had options to play elsewhere, my preference was always to stay, so my family and I are really happy that I can do that.
"I would like to thank the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for giving me the chance to re-sign for a further two years.
"I'm really looking forward to next year's Super Rugby season and playing in front of the Blues fans."
(Writing by Ian Ransom and Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)