Rugby: Ihaia West relishing spot of Chiefs experience

By Anendra Singh

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Ihaia West could be wearing Chiefs this year.
Ihaia West could be wearing Chiefs this year.

It's not the real deal for now but Ihaia West is comfortable in the knowledge that he is on the Super Rugby radar this summer.

"I think someone's got their wires crossed," the Hawke's Bay Magpies first five-eighth said last night from Hamilton where he is training with the Chiefs franchise.

The pivot, who turns 22 on Thursday, has been training with the two-time defending Super Rugby champions before Christmas.

"I came in as injury cover for a few guys," the Progressive Meats Havelock North Rugby and Football Club player said.

The Dave Rennie and Tom Coventry-coached Chiefs are preparing for the possibility of kicking off their 2014 campaign without the services of Robbie Robinson, Gareth Anscombe and Tom Marshall due to injury.

West's omission when Super Rugby squads were announced late last year had raised a few eyebrows after the youngster had put on a sterling performance for the Craig Philpott and Danny Lee-coached Magpies in the ITM Cup last winter.

The Magpies lost in the lower-tier Championship final to the Tasman Makos to be denied promotion to the Premiership competition next winter but they had capped off their season a few rounds earlier by etching their name on the Ranfurly Shield after a 44-year drought before gut-wrenchingly losing it at McLean Park, Napier, to Counties-Manukau six days later.

"There's no 10s so I've been running as 10 with Hosso [Andrew Horrell]," West said of his fellow Magpie backline who plays for Taradale Rugby Club.

West said the situation in the Chiefs squad became further complicated because All Black first five-eighth Aaron Cruden, from the Manawatu Turbos, was on his honeymoon after marrying longtime girlfriend Grace King, who he met at 18.

West was relishing his time with the Chiefs and thriving in the culture under Rennie and former Magpies co-coach Coventry.

"It's pretty good to learn things from them. I'm also training with the boys so it's pretty cool and I'm enjoying it," the Maori All Black said.

The days were long and hard - from 8am to 4.30pm - but equally rewarding.

His parents, Shona and Simon West, are thrilled with his involvement. He has met ex-Magpie Ben Tameifuna and "other familiar faces" but the prop hadn't talked him into entering a Fight for Life boxing ring just yet.

West said if he hadn't been training he would probably have been curling up on a sofa at their Bay home.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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