Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Simon Who can become a somebody

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New Blues five-eighth has demonstrated speed and confidence at ITM Cup level.

Simon Hickey. Photo / NZ Herald
Simon Hickey. Photo / NZ Herald

It was not quite a case of Simon who? when the Blues promoted Simon Hickey to five-eighths for tonight's Super 15 duel with the Crusaders.

He has played for Auckland, was picked in the wider training group to supplement the Blues this season and with Tevita Li from that group, is in tonight's starting XV.

Hickey is a young man whose cricket talents excited many until he decided to narrow his sports focus to rugby. He has just turned 20 and his ITM Cup work earned him promotion towards the Super 15. He was to tuck in behind Chris Noakes, Baden Kerr and Benji Marshall during the Blues' preparation for the Super 15 season.

Hickey played about 10 minutes at five-eighths in the Blues pre-season matches, dabbled at halfback in others and will square off against Tom Taylor tonight.

Kerr has broken his thumb, Marshall has not grasped the game enough to start and Noakes has been cast aside after an opening game where he had a kick charged down for a try, was bent back on defence and missed three penalties.

Promoting Hickey was a shock. He has some game and those who have watched his progress say he will not be overawed. Hickey and Piri Weepu combined for Auckland but finding the tempo with the rest of the Blues backline tonight as Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Co hunt for victims will be a very different task.

Hickey communicates well and that will be crucial with his looseforwards, Jackson Willison, George Moala and Tevita Li in the backs. He plays flat on attack and has enough speed and confidence to challenge any drifting defensive screens while his tactical kicking game is tidy enough and his goal kicking success rate is strong. "I've got complete faith in him and he's ready," says coach Sir John Kirwan.

Since Carlos Spencer, the Blues have struggled to find a five-eighths with class and solidity. If Hickey is the business, he has oodles of time to nail his imprint.

•The Blues and New Zealand Rugby have re-signed Blues coach Kirwan and assistant Grant Doorey for 2015.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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