Former All Blacks winger Sir John Kirwan says he's "a proud Blues man" and is looking forward to turning around the Super Rugby franchise's fortunes after signing a two-year contract as head coach on Tuesday.
Kirwan, who scored 35 tries in 63 Tests for the All Blacks since his 1984 debut as a 19-year-old, replaces incumbent Pat Lam.
After four years at the helm, Lam has been ousted after presiding over a horror Blues season where they managed just four wins from 16 games.
Their best finish under Lam's guidance has been fourth place last year. They finished seventh in 2010, and ninth the previous year.
Kirwan played 142 games for Auckland before embarking on an international coaching career in Italy and more recently, Japan. He also had a brief stint with the Blues franchise in 2001 as assistant coach, and says it's an exciting time to be returning.
"I'm a proud Blues man and I started my rugby career in the region so I'm really excited about connecting with fans and working with the Blues community.
"There's certainly some hard work ahead and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Blues chairman and former All Blacks teammate Gary Whetton acknowledges the franchise has struggled this season, but says Kirwan is the man to turn the team around.
"The challenge is clearly laid down for John and we look forward to seeing positive results," he said.
Whetton also paid tribute to Lam, who began his career at the Blues after having coached Auckland from 2004 to 2008, including an undefeated season in 2007.
"We know this is a difficult time for Pat, who has been a long and loyal servant to Auckland Rugby and the Blues, and we thank him for all he has given to both."