Accuracy is the key word Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett uses when he talks about Brad Shields.
On the field, the loose forward plays with a degree of accuracy that has prompted Hammett to give Shields the No8 jersey for the side's season-opener against the Blues at Westpac Stadium tonight.
Shields must have produced a good showing in his only pre-season hit-out against the Chiefs in Mangatainoka last weekend because it was on the back of that effort alone that Hammett decided to summon him to the back of the scrum.
The 21-year-old spent most of the off-season recovering from a knee injury suffered seven months ago.
"I thought what we've seen out of Brad and how he's trained, he has been ready and probably could've gone in the second pre-season game, but he brought a real physicality and a real accuracy to his game," Hammett said.
Off the field, Shields has the same haircut as halfback TJ Perenara with the short sides and a swish fringe but it doesn't appear that his accurate nature extends to the clippers.
"Mine's a bit rougher though. It isn't as straight. I kind of cut it myself," Shields said.
Shields joked that he spent less time in front of the mirror than Perenara.
"He's the biggest pretty boy in the team. Him and Julian," Shields laughed as wing Julian Savea loped off after training, clearly within earshot.
Friendly barbs aside, Shields said he was surprised to be given a starting role tonight given the form that Victor Vito showed at No8 last season for the Hurricanes with Faifili Levave producing plenty of bone-jarring tackles at blindside flanker.
But Vito is seen as a No6 in the long term at Super rugby and All Black level, which has given Shields his opportunity, while Levave will be used in an impact role this weekend with Karl Lowe at openside.
Shields' fledgling career has been blighted by injury, a shoulder problem keeping him off the park for part of last year before his knee woes struck.
The potential in him is undeniable and he was one of a handful of youngsters who were called on to join the All Blacks' wider training group for a series of camps last year.
Not afraid of getting involved in the physical exchanges, the 1.93m and 111kg Shields said the Blues would be a tricky prospect to open the season.
"They're a young team so they're pretty unpredictable but you've just got to front and play our game and D up well. It's a classic derby, Auckland versus Wellington or Blues versus Hurricanes type of thing so it's always going to be tough."
There'll be no shortage of enthusiasm from a new-look Blues side who are desperate to prove themselves and Shields' accurate play from No8 will be vital to the Hurricanes' cause tonight.
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel