Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Charles aims to be in charge of heavyweight clash

Mr Explosive takes on Mr Consistant in the intriguing fullbacks matchup at Eden Park

Charles Piutau says he wishes his consistency could reach that of rival Ben Smith. Photo / Richard Robinson
Charles Piutau says he wishes his consistency could reach that of rival Ben Smith. Photo / Richard Robinson

As he prepares to test himself against the other in-form New Zealand fullback, Charles Piutau says he wishes his consistency could reach that of rival Ben Smith.

The clash between Blues' star Piutau and Highlander Smith at Eden Park tomorrow has the potential to be one of the most intriguing of the match.

They are very different players - Piutau the explosive, aggressive type against the evasion and pace of Smith - but both are integral to their teams in their own way. While Crusader Israel Dagg is having his customary slow start to the rugby year, it is these two attracting all the plaudits as far as New Zealand No15s go.

Smith and Piutau are eighth and ninth in the competition respectively for metres in possession, with Piutau third equal overall in terms of defenders beaten.

But despite being the Blues' most dangerous attacker, Piutau said there are elements of his game that he isn't happy with.

The major one is consistency - the ability to make an increasing impact on matches. And, he adds, the Blues' own inconsistency was no excuse for not achieving that.

"There's a lot of room for improvement. I really want to be consistent week in, week out," he said. "I can only control myself, if I play my part, hopefully the team can do theirs as well."

Of Highlanders co-captain Smith, Piutau said: "He's been playing really well. He's one of their threats. He's been leading from the front for his team. He's dangerous from the counter and his kicking game is good too.

"He has such a good all-round skill set and I've seen that with the All Blacks too."

Asked about Smith's consistency for the Highlanders, Piutau said: "Sometimes that's the difference between players. Being able to do it week in, week out. He does that. I think for myself that's one thing I've always tried to do no matter what team I'm part of."

Piutau's ability to punch holes in defences is likely to be helped by the return of midfielder Ma'a Nonu, whom he played with when making his debut at this level two years ago under Pat Lam.

"He brings a lot to the game and this team," Piutau said of Nonu. "I'm quite excited about hopefully running off his shoulder if he makes a few linebreaks.

"Playing alongside a world class second-five who makes good decisions and distributes the ball so well makes it much easier."

While there is potential for Piutau to play centre for both the Blues and All Blacks, he said he would face that challenge if and when it came. Although he has the game awareness and skills to make a go of it, Piutau is well aware of the challenges Smith faced in replacing namesake Conrad Smith in the No13 jersey late last year.

"It's a massive difference, mainly defensively, compared to the outsides.

"There's a lot more decision-making.

"In terms of attack, it's exciting because you get your hands on the ball more."

- NZ Herald

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