Dan Bowden is coming home after signing with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues for the 2015 and 2016 Investec Super Rugby seasons.
28-year-old Bowden, a former Highlander and Crusader, has been playing rugby in England since 2010 and is relishing the opportunity of returning to Auckland where he grew up.
“I’m really excited to be returning home along with my four-month-old baby and wife. I had opportunities to stay in the UK but coming back to be around my family and playing for the Blues is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Bowden said.
“I’ve spent time playing with the Highlanders and Crusaders but playing for my hometown team has always been an ambition of mine and I’m hoping to finally fulfil that.
“It was the team I grew up supporting and wanting to play for and I’ve taken the long way around to get to it. I was involved in the Blues Wider Training Group in 2005 so it’s been a long time coming but I’m excited to join the Blues and get back to playing Super Rugby.”
Bowden said he was comfortable playing at either first or second five-eighths for the Blues.
“I played 10 for London Irish and mostly 12 for Leicester so I’m comfortable at either,” he said.
“I’m sure the Blues will have their ideas – I’d like to play 10 but I’m happy to play wherever is best for the team. There are plenty of talented players in the Blues backline and hopefully I can offer some guidance and experience there.”
Bowden enjoyed a highly successful career in England. An impressive inaugural season with London Irish earned him the ‘Players’ Player of the Year’ award and he shared the captaincy at the Exiles during the 2011/12 season.
After two seasons with London Irish, the versatile playmaker joined Leicester Tigers in the summer of 2012 and ended the season as an Aviva Premiership champion. In his first game for the Tigers his finish for a length-of-the-field score against Saracens was voted the Aviva Premiership Try of the Season.
Born in Auckland and schooled at Auckland Grammar, Bowden has represented New Zealand at schools, under-17, under-19 and under-21 levels.
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said he was thrilled to welcome Bowden to the Blues.
“Dan has a great skill set and is really keen to come back and have another crack at Super Rugby in New Zealand so we’re really excited to have him,” he said.
“He’s really matured and developed playing in the UK. He was on the cusp of playing for England and he probably got injured at the wrong time which has helped him make the decision to come back and join the Blues so we’re looking forward to having his experience in the squad.”
Bowden is currently in Auckland and will head to Japan before returning to join the Blues for pre-season training in January.