Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Hooker aims to maintain pressure on Mealamu

James Parsons. Photo / Getty Images
James Parsons. Photo / Getty Images

Blues hooker James Parsons, one of the team's early surprise packages last year, has been given a chance to replicate that form with a start against the Highlanders.

And he hopes to again make coach Sir John Kirwan's life difficult when Keven Mealamu returns.

"To finally get a good crack in the jersey and put the coaches under pressure and sometimes keep Kevvy on the bench was a great thing last year," said Parsons this week, his patience in waiting for that Blues starting spot after saying no to several overseas franchises paying off.

This year there is a different dynamic again in the front row. Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock's return means Tom McCartney, a hooker converted to prop, moves back into contention for the No2 jersey. McCartney has been a good operator for the Blues since making his debut for the franchise back in 2008, but 27-year-old Parsons, who made his debut two years ago and who has been preferred ahead of him for his team's opening match in Dunedin, welcomes the competition.

"Competition only makes you better, I truly believe that. To have someone pushing you and you pushing them, you can only get better as a player, so that's something I thrive on. I'm a competitive man and I want to be No1 and it's as simple as that."

The Blues' front row options of Parsons, Woodcock, Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sam Prattley and Angus Ta'avao suggest Kirwan's team will be competitive in this area, and Parsons said he expected youngsters such as Tu'ungafasi, who will wear the No1 jersey in Dunedin, and Prattley, to show a similar mindset to his own.

Kirwan has been especially impressed with the pre-season performances of Tu'ungafasi, a powerful 21-year-old who made his debut last year. Tomorrow's match will be his first start.

- NZ Herald

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