DYNAMIC: Julian Savea is part of an exciting Hurricanes backline.PHOTO/FILE
FORGET any idea that the Hurricanes won't be at full stretch when they play the Blues in a Super 15 pre-season rugby match at Eketahuna on Saturday.
Last year's beaten finalists are bringing their full squad, aside from skipper All Blacks hooker Dane Coles, who is away at a wedding, to the small northern Wairarapa township and all players will be given match time.
That's a far cry from what happened when the Canes were kept scoreless in their 28-0 defeat by Western Force in the first of their pre-season fixtures in Gosford, Australia, last week.
As coach Chris Boyd was quick to point out in his after-match comments, of the players who played only two of the forwards -- Brad Shields and Reggie Goodes -- were regular starting players while nine others were making their first appearances for the Canes' premier side. In fact a handful had yet to even play at ITM Cup level.
Boyd agreed that, on the face of it, the size of the Western Force win was a "pasting" and, yes, there were lessons to be learnt from it but said it was not something he would be "slitting my wrists" over.
Boyd saw much more importance in a week-long camp which began in Gisborne over the weekend and would end with the Eketahuna game.
A big part of that camp would be coming to terms with the Canes not having established All Blacks Conrad Smith and Ma'a Non'u and two other veterans who have worn the silver fern, Jeremy Thrush and Ben Franks, as part of their line-up in 2016.
In Boyd's view their absence meant an opportunity for "guys who have been lieutenants to become colonels" and that was something which could not be expected to happen overnight.
"This is really a starting point to launch our campaign," Boyd said of the Eketahuna match. "The camp at Gisborne has been a chance to come together and lay down some common goals and values and hopefully that off-field camaraderie is reflected in the way we play."
News that Boyd intends to give all his available World Cup-winning All Blacks the chance to strut their stuff is a mouth-watering prospect for Wairarapa rugby fans.
TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder give them enormous attacking potential in the backs and should guarantee there are no lack of tries on this occasion.
The Blues, for their part, will head to Eketahuna in a confident frame of mind. They played their first pre-season game against Melbourne Rebels last weekend and if the intention was to give new coach, former All Black skipper Tana Umaga, a flying start in that role they certainly succeeded, winning 59-7 against opposition which was admittedly under-strength. Whether the Blues will be at full strength on Saturday is yet to be confirmed but the likelihood is that will be the case.
Eketahuna Rugby Club president Dennis "Doc" Dougherty is predicting a lively, entertaining game on a pitch which is in superb condition. He said the temporary grandstands and corporate areas were beginning to take shape and that, like in previous games organised by Tui, there would be a festive atmosphere among what is expected to be a large crowd.
Tickets are available through PGG Wrightson Stores and at Tui HQ, SH2, Mangatainoka. The gates will open at 12.30pm with a curtain-raiser featuring a Tui Brewery invitational XV and a PGG Wrightson invitational XV kicking off at 1pm. The feature game will get under way at 3pm.