James Mortimer - (5/07/2010)
Daniel Braid is back in New Zealand after rejoining Auckland, after taking a five week break in Europe and finishing a successful two year stint with the Queensland Reds.
Braid was brilliant with the Brisbane based franchise, becoming an integral part of the setup, including being named as the vice captain under Ewen McKenzie this season.
Not only that, but the openside was arguably the form number seven in the competition, slotting in well with the Reds high octane running game, engineered around their dynamic halves combination of Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
Some rugby maxims state that an openside’s pure role is to operate as a link between the forwards and backs - which Braid excelled at with Queensland - and the game as played under the new law interpretations suited the former All Black to a tee.
Now, having re-signed with the NZRU and Auckland Unions for three years, Braid will look to establish himself as All Blacks captain Richie McCaw’s immediate backup.
Despite rumours that the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) was willing to relax their two year foreign import rule for the 29 year old, and the fact that Braid would have fetched a handsome sum playing in Europe, the lure of again donning the Black jersey and locking in a World Cup berth was too big an opportunity.
He will be keen to add to his four test caps.
"I'm motivated, I'm refreshed, I've had a stint overseas, I've just been away on my honeymoon, so now I've come back keen to get in and play some rugby for a union I love," said Braid to stuff.co.nz
His role in helping the Reds to a fairy tale fifth place finish in the Rebel Sport Super 14 attracted the attention of many in New Zealand, and Braid hopes that those who matter will keep their eyes on him.
"So now I've come back hopefully to show my form and try to make the All Blacks," Braid said."I didn't have the opportunity to play for the All Blacks while I was in Australia, and that's still one of my goals - to make the All Black selectors want to pick me."
Braid was injured in 2009, but said the forced recuperation and a big off season helped him focus on what turned out to be possibly his best ever year at the highest level with Queensland.
"I was able to have a really big pre-season over there from October, and the preparation I put in was really important in terms of the form I had during the season,” Braid said."Having that amount of time to get the body right and to get fit was really good.”
Braid though will hope he can help Auckland recapture their glory days, last being with the province when they won a Ranfurly and Air New Zealand Cup double in 2007.
"We've got some young guys coming through, and we've also brought a few guys in from around the place," said Braid. "It will be a strong team. Family's here, a lot of my friends are here, it's a union I love playing for, I enjoy living here, and it's time to get back and start a family. There's a lot of things to look forward to in New Zealand - not just rugby."