Former All Black and Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has made the case for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to be granted an early release from his New Zealand Rugby contract to make an early return to NZ Warriors and the NRL.
Tuivasa-Sheck, 29, will walk away from rugby union at the end of 2023 to return to the 13-man code, after attempting to break into the All Blacks’ squad for this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
Since leaving the Warriors at the end of 2021, Tuivasa-Sheck has endured setback after setback in rugby union.
His initial stint in the NPC with Auckland was ultimately scuppered by COVID-19 lockdowns, and while he has impressed in spells playing for the Blues in Super Rugby, injuries have come at the wrong times.
Tuivasa-Sheck was rewarded with an All Blacks call-up in 2022, but struggled for game time as results went against Ian Foster’s side.
Last month, Tuivasa-Sheck confirmed he would return to the NRL, signing a three-year deal with the Warriors from 2023.
However, since then, Tuivasa-Sheck has played just once for the Blues in a rotated side’s victory over Moana Pasifika.
On Saturday, Tuivasa-Sheck was left out of the matchday 23 altogether, as Harry Plummer and Bryce Heem were preferred as options in midfield by coach Leon MacDonald to face the Crusaders.
With time ticking, Tuivasa-Sheck is running out of opportunities to prove his worth to the All Blacks before the World Cup – especially if he has now been overtaken by Plummer as the Blues’ first-choice in the No.12 jersey.
But for Sir John, who himself switched codes to play for the Warriors, Tuivasa-Sheck calling time on the Blues early would not represent a failure of any sort.
“If Roger feels like he’s not going to make the All Blacks, or he’s not getting the opportunities and he goes back to the Warriors next week, it’s a win-win for everyone,” Sir John said on Sky Sport’s The Breakdown.
“It’s not failure, it just didn’t work. He’s still an All Black, he can take that.
“He’s had a lot of bad luck, but if he was playing for the Warriors in the next couple of weeks, it’s just a win-win.”
Sir John isn’t unfamiliar with scenarios like Tuivasa-Sheck’s either.
In 2014, he was Blues coach when NZ Kiwis great Benji Marshall swapped codes, but only managed six appearances for the Blues before returning to Australia to sign for St George-Illawarra Dragons.
Time will only tell, though, if Tuivasa-Sheck makes the same call.
“I lived through this with Benji Marshall – it was one of the hardest conversations I had to have as a coach,” he explained.
“It just wasn’t working with the Blues, me and Benji. It was a horrible conversation, but he said ‘JK, I’m not going to drop down to the second side, I want to go back to rugby league’.
“I said go, and it was done in a week, and he went back.”