Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Don't forget about me says Leonard

Having signed on for another season in New Zealand after this one, Leonard hasn't given up on adding to his 13 tests. Photo / Getty Images.
Having signed on for another season in New Zealand after this one, Leonard hasn't given up on adding to his 13 tests. Photo / Getty Images.

Amid all the talk about young halfbacks on the brink of winning All Blacks jerseys, Brendon Leonard doesn't want to be counted out just yet.

Unfortunately for the 27-year-old Chiefs player, a two-month layoff due to a bad hamstring injury suffered in round one has put the brakes on his putting a case for a return to the national side.

Leonard's last appearance in the black jersey was in the defeat to the Barbarians at Twickenham in December, 2009, with Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis, Alby Mathewson and Piri Weepu preferred since.

Now he is facing more competition for the No9 jersey - a "logjam" as he calls it - in the form of Chiefs teammate Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who is 21, along with other impressive up-and-comers 20-year-old Aaron Smith at the Highlanders and 19-year-old TJ Perenara at the Hurricanes.

However, having signed on for another season in New Zealand after this one, Leonard hasn't given up on adding to his 13 tests.

"That's why I've signed on again," he said. "It would be good to get into that team again. There's obviously a lot of halfbacks, especially young ones, coming through so it's a bit of a logjam but I've just got to keep going each week for the Chiefs and see what happens from there."

At his best Leonard is an extremely quick presence behind the base of the scrum who isn't afraid of the physical stuff, and having worked himself into excellent condition in pre-season, having to sit on the sidelines was especially frustrating.

"I had a pretty big pre-season. I was probably the biggest and fastest I've been for a while so I was looking forward to getting into the season and obviously round one getting a bad hamstring injury was pretty frustrating. But I got over that and realised it was part of sport and enjoyed watching the boys play so well and getting on a pretty good run."

That good form - the Chiefs have strung together nine victories since that first loss to the Highlanders - made his return easier, he said.

"I know I don't have to do too much, I just have to do my job well and let the rest take care of itself."

On his return Leonard started against the Hurricanes and Lions, scoring a try in the victory over the latter, and is now hoping to get another large chunk of game time under his belt against the Reds in Brisbane on Sunday.

The Chiefs will announce their team tomorrow.

The defending champion Queenslanders are on the rise, having pushed the Crusaders close in Christchurch in the weekend, and have a decent halfback of their own in Will Genia.

"He's the best halfback in the world so whether it's me or Tawera starting or coming off the bench, we've got to make sure we minimise his impact on the game and try to keep him as quiet as possible."

Leonard joked that the Chiefs forwards had hidden themselves away this week to work on their lineout drives after coming under pressure in this area from the Lions.

"I think you'll see a pretty big chance in our defensive lineouts this week. I'm sure the Reds will have a go, all teams will from five metres out, but I think we'll see a big improvement from our forwards this week."

- APNZ

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