Beauden Barrett has offered an insight into the nature of Dan Carter's role at the Blues, labelling him a "player coach" whose experience has been invaluable.
Carter's signing with the Blues ahead of the start of Super Rugby Aotearoa this weekend initially raised a few eyebrows – not just from the Canterbury faithful – as to what his role will be at the club and where he would fit in.
But Barrett revealed that the Blues aren't just looking to Carter as a reinforcement on the field, and the All Black great has already been an influential voice right from his first day of training with the team.
"He's been such a steady and experienced voice," Barrett told Newstalk ZB. "The first day I was training out there, I was training alongside him and he was giving me instant feedback which is so good. It's what I need to get better. It's what we all need to get better.
"He's still a few weeks away from being match fit but just his presence, his experience. He's almost a player coach."
The Blues won't have Carter this Sunday against the Hurricanes but they will have well over 30,000 Auckland fans cheering them on at Eden Park for their first game of the revamped season.
Barrett said the huge response to ticket sales is a great sign for both the team and the financial viability of New Zealand rugby.
"[The crowd makes] such a difference," he said. "And especially being a home game first up. We're fortunate that we can attract a good crowd on Sunday and I think sales are flying out the gates so it's all good signs.
"I'm not sure what the breakeven is to play at Eden Park but I think it's looking pretty good for us. As players we're humbled by the support of the fans. To have 30 plus thousand at Eden Park for our first game, we all can't wait."
On a personal note, Barrett said he can't wait to get back to doing what he does best after a long lockdown period, which has allowed him to work on his fitness – as shown by his record-breaking Bronco fitness test – as well as sharpen his cooking skills at home.
"It's all I focused on during lockdown," he said about staying fit. "That and improving my cooking skills. Staying fit was something that I could control and working hard on my training was something that I focused on. I think to come back in in tip top condition is a good sign ... it's the least you can do as professional athletes."
With expectations high at the Auckland franchise, Barrett says his main focus is doing his best on the field for the Blues.
"I know we're working really hard and we'll do pretty well. We have high expectations of ourselves and that is to play or to win on Sunday this week.
"We've got a really good culture. [Coach] Leon [MacDonald]'s doing a great job with the team. So yeah we're just conscious we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves."
The Blues take on the Hurricanes at Eden Park at 3.35pm on Sunday.