Gareth Anscombe may return to Blues following Benji Marshall departure

Pride needs to be swallowed by both parties but the Blues will strongly consider welcoming Gareth Anscombe back next year.

By the end of this season, Blues coach John Kirwan will have at least two spots to fill at five-eighth.

Benji Marshall's sudden departure creates one hole and it is understood that, after two years at the Blues, Chris Noakes is set to sign for London Irish.

That leaves New Zealand under-20s captain Simon Hickey, injured Counties Manukau pivot Baden Kerr and Hawke's Bay playmaker Ihaia West, who is keen to impress and prolong his short-term contract.

Since Carlos Spencer jinked and jived around Eden Park during the franchise's heyday, the Blues have employed 20 five-eighths. Any wonder their No.10 jersey is considered one of New Zealand's most daunting?

With Noakes likely to leave at the end of the season, Kirwan will give Hickey ample opportunity to prove himself at this level. His diminutive size poses obvious concerns on defence and when taking on the line, but the rookie has heart and is still learning his trade. He is keen to remain in Auckland and progress, though could find intense competition from Anscombe next year.

Speculation was sparked this week that Anscombe could play for Wales at next year's World Cup, as he is eligible through his mother, Tracey. While he met with Kiwi-born Welsh coach Warren Gatland last November, Anscombe is determined to remain in New Zealand and push for a spot in the All Blacks squad. Any lucrative offer from the Cardiff Blues is expected to be knocked back.

Recent contact has been made with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who praised his versatility and pace. He is not in the immediate frame, but injuries could yet open the door for a national call-up.

Anscombe is only 22 and, therefore, does not need to make rash decisions. Should he fail to make the All Blacks World Cup squad, he will then weigh up a possible switch to Wales, with an out-clause understood to be included in his recently signed two-year extension with the Auckland NPC team.

With Anscombe committed to New Zealand next year, he will soon ponder his Super Rugby future. He is in the final year of his contract with the Chiefs and must consider where he will get the best chance to push his credentials.

Anscombe has flourished under Wayne Smith's guidance but, with Aaron Cruden blocking his pathway five-eighth, he may look to the Blues.

''For now I still see myself as a 10 that can play 15,'' he said. ''It's always nice to be able to play a couple of positions, have a bit of utility value.

''I'm working hard on my game at 10 and hopefully I can show that over the next couple of weeks.''

Three weeks ago Anscombe had not played first-five at Super Rugby level for more than two years. With Cruden injured, he has since had three starts and will probably get three more before the All Blacks playmaker returns. That stretch will be crucial to proving his abilities at No.10.

Anscombe's departure from the Blues was messy. Kirwan gave him some blunt feedback at the time but has now left the door open for a possible return.

''I’m happy to sit down and have a chat to him if he's keen to come back,'' Kirwan said.

Anscombe will soon decide whether he stays with the Chiefs, who are keen to retain him, or switches back to the Blues in pursuit of the 10 jersey.

''I suppose you've got to be realistic sometimes. I haven’t looked too far ahead,'' he said.

''When there's a bit of a break, there will be a chance to sit down and reflect but I haven't done that at this stage.''

This story Gareth Anscombe may return to Blues following Benji Marshall departure first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.