After a discordant week of Super Rugby chaos layered with Sonny Bill's collar-gate there was scant warmth about the Easter playbook.

Tonight's Blues-Hurricanes duel looks a beacon in a round with the haggard look of everything troubling this tournament in a collection of lopsided games, those with scant connection to New Zealand or out of our time frame. The prolonged demise of the 18-team competition - if it occurs after legal challenges - is spelled out in round eight.

The opening game was notable for the extraordinary record set by loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett as he played his 176th game in Crusader colours. For someone with a build more akin to a lock or a blindside flanker, the amiable Crockett has churned past a decade of frontrow duty for his team with no thoughts of retirement.

There was also the return of All Black captain Kieran Read from wrist surgery as he started his push towards full fitness and thoughts of the rousing mid-year test series with the touring Lions. That theme will reach another peak this week when coach Warren Gatland reveals his 37-man playing squad.


As Read stepped back into the fray, more snags around the Lions captaincy were filling the rugby pages in Europe as potential leader Sam Warburton acquainted himself with another injury recovery job-sheet. Medial knee ligament damage will keep him out of footy until about a fortnight before the Lions leave for their 10-game trip to New Zealand.

Warburton impressed for Wales in the Six Nations when he shed the captaincy after another injury and returned as an impressive loose-forward ally for Justin Tipuric and an experienced sounding board for new skipper Alun Wyn-Jones.

That has provoked plenty of debate before Gatland reveals his answers to the leadership puzzle and those joining the travelling squad.

Has Gatland found enough merit in the Wyn-Jones promotion to persist with that arrangement for the Lions tour, does he have someone else in mind such as Rory Best or Dylan Hartley or will he turn to Warburton to captain the side as he did on the 2013 tour of Australia?

Gatland knows he and the Lions will need to be tougher than they were in all aspects of their play four years ago if they are to join their illustrious 1971 predecessors and claim a series win against the All Blacks.

This week we will see the foundations for that challenge.

Unity on the last two tours to New Zealand in 1993 and 2005 was mixed and strands of friction bubbled through the controversies about the final test selection for the 2013 visit to Australia. That discord always has multiple avenues on a Lions tour as the media push their viewpoints to their particular markets.