Blues hooker James Parsons has lost the captaincy but not his determination to succeed and he's found something else – a running game he has been working extremely hard on.

There he was at Forsyth Barr Stadium running up the middle against the Highlanders, a rampaging bundle of energy with the ball, a sight to gladden the hearts of Blues supporters nearly as much as the running ability of Matt Duffie and Rieko Ioane in Dunedin.

It was a first-half performance which helped the Blues to a good halftime lead, a margin they were worthy of, before Antonio Kiri Kiri's yellow card handed the Highlanders the break they were looking for.

Parsons said he would prefer the likes of Duffie or Ioane to have the ball in their hands but was prepared to do what he could when he got the chance. "It's something I've been working on," Parsons said. "It came to the fore in the Lions fixture last year and I carried it on in the Mitre 10 Cup."


He has always been seen as a hard worker, so the developments in his game shouldn't come as a big surprise. Nor should the fact he is surveying his options as his contract with the Blues and New Zealand Rugby enters its final year.

"Most people are surprised I've stayed around this long but for me it's a no-brainer," Parsons told the Herald. "That's not to say there aren't opportunities overseas. My wife and I are weighing that up at the moment. But that will take care of itself if I keep performing."

The 31-year-old saw the captaincy given to halfback Augustine Pulu in the off-season but if he was disappointed by Tana Umaga's decision it doesn't show.

"I knew pretty early," he said. "If you keep doing the same thing you get the same results so I'm completely comfortable with it. It was an amicable decision and I'm fully supportive of Augustine and the way he wants to take the team. One thing I want to provide him is a strong sounding board and be a strong leader myself to give him the support he needs.

"I feel I'm doing a good job on that. The best sign of leadership comes from actions – not only game day but in preparation and training. That's what I've based my whole career around and that's what I'll keep doing. I think that provides a good foundation for this group to feed off."

Parsons will play a key role in preparing the team for their match against the Chiefs at Eden Park on Friday night. A win would break a 12-match drought against New Zealand opposition.

The Blues' backline firepower, described as the best in the world by Parsons, could be crucial, but the pack showed a physical edge in Dunedin which hasn't been seen consistently for a while and at the middle of it all will be the nuggety No2.

"They're similar to us, they'll be wanting to get their season started," Parsons said of the Chiefs, who lost their opener to the Crusaders in Christchurch. "I don't think they'll be down on confidence – if you look at their players and at their No10, confidence won't affect [Damian McKenzie], he'll just play, we understand that."