Ben Blair has extended his contractual commitment to the Cardiff Blues until 2012, but former captain Xavier Rush has decided to call time on his five year association with the Blues to pursue another challenge in Northern Ireland with Ulster Rugby.
Blair joined the Blues in the summer of 2006 after ending his New Zealand club career on a winning note by helping Canterbury win the Ranfurly Shield at the Jade Stadium.
A prolific goal kicker, Ben made his debut for Cardiff Blues against Leinster in Dublin in September 2006 and kicked all the point for the Blues that evening. He reached the 100 point mark in the Magners League after only nine games and has gone on to notch up 871 points, becoming the region’s top points scorer.
All four of his Test caps were earned overseas playing against Scotland & Argentina in 2001, and then England & Wales in 2002. Only Simon Culhane has scored more points on debut for the All Blacks than Blair’s 38 against Ireland A at Belfast in 2001.
Since joining the Blues in 2006 Blair has proven his worth, making 91 appearances for the region, starting 90, and was voted the player of the season, for the 2007/08 season, by the supporters’ club.
Speaking at the signing of his new contract, Ben Blair commented; "I am delighted to commit my future to the Blues where I am more than happy having enjoyed my time on and off the field from day one.
"I have a young family that are really settled in our adopted home from home and I look forward to building on the successes of last year with my friends and colleagues in what is a very competitive squad here at the Blues."
Xavier Rush joined the Cardiff Blues from the Auckland Blues in 2005. The Kiwi powerhouse was an instant hit with the fans, with both his aggressive attacking play and leadership qualities being appreciated by all, and saw Rush being named as The Supporters’ Club Player of the Season in his first year.
Xavier was made Captain of the Cardiff Blues in the summer of 2006 and led the team with distinction for two years, before handing the reigns over to fellow Kiwi, Paul Tito. Having lived in Cardiff for five years Rush believes the move to pastures new gives him a chance to experience life in a different country and a fresh challenge on the rugby front.
Speaking of his summer move, Xavier Rush explained; "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time living in Wales, representing and captaining the Cardiff Blues has been a real honour. Over the years I have developed many friendships that will last a lifetime.
"However, my original intention having moved from New Zealand back in 2005, was always to experience life in Europe and after five years in the capital city of Wales, which has been a real privilege, I feel the time is right for a change before I consider the future following my playing career.
"I would like to thank everyone at the Cardiff Blues for making me so welcome throughout my time with the team and indeed providing me with a considerable dilemma following the very strongest of offers to remain.
"I would also like everyone particularly the supporters of the Region to be under no illusions that my focus will be to give my all for the jersey until our final game of the season."
Speaking of the news surrounding both former All Blacks, Cardiff Blues Chief Executive, Robert Norster said; "We are naturally delighted to announce the news of Ben’s contract extension, but understandably disappointed to inform of Xavier’s decision to move on.
"Ben has proved himself to be one of the most reliable goal-kickers and creative broken field runners in the game and we very much welcome his extended commitment to the team.
"Both Ben and Xavier have been outstanding contributors for our team playing key roles in the successes of last season. Nevertheless, we must all accept the professional age in which we operate and respect the individual’s right to pursue other cultures and environments during their relatively short playing careers.
"We have undertaken everything in our powers to retain Xavier’s services. However, Xavier has decided to make a life change and we respect his desire to do so. Xavier has made a tremendous contribution and been at the core of the evolution of the Region over the last five years and we wish him well in the next chapter of his life and career.
"On behalf of everyone associated with the Cardiff Blues, I would like to express our sincere thanks to Xavier for his significant and unstinting contribution throughout his time with the team which I have no doubt will remain to be the case until the final encounter of the season."