Canterbury determined to attack Auckland
All indications are Canterbury will be attack-happy this season and that, perhaps, may allow Tom Taylor to open the throttle on his season.
Taylor, who will start at second five-eighth against Auckland this afternoon, deserves a change in fortunes after a frustrating period with the Crusaders and playing in a competition where defences are not so steely may jolt things back on track.
Although he made 16 appearances, including nine starts, during the Super Rugby campaign he must have felt like a pinball as he appeared at first and second five-eighth, centre and fullback.
The 25-year-old won't poison his own reputation by disputing selection policies but getting regular starts - preferably in one position - wouldn't just increase his confidence, it would remind All Blacks coach Steve Hansen he should tour the United States and the United Kingdom later this year.
It's worth remembering that Taylor made three test appearances for the All Blacks last year.
He started at first-five in his debut against the Wallabies last August when Hansen lost Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett with injuries, kicking four penalties and a conversion in the 27-16 win in Wellington.
Later, he appeared as a substitute against the Wallabies in Dunedin and Japan in Tokyo, but being unable to own a number with the Crusaders stalled his progress.
He denies that being a fix-it player is a negative, noting his lack of time at first-five before his test debut.
''At the time I was a utility, I had not even played No 10 for probably close to a year,'' Taylor says.
''It is something I practise in my spare time, anyway - all the roles of a 10 and the other positions. I just have to work harder ... so I am ready to go.
''I think I have come to terms that being a utility is part of my play, so I am just keen to get as much game-time as I can.''
Which brings us to Auckland who have loaded their backline with Charles Piutau, Lolagi Visinia, Francis Saili and George Moala.
With many of the Crusaders players only clocking-in on Monday following the Super Rugby grand final, coach Scott Robertson has been unable to burden his team with an excess of information.
Yet Taylor said that didn't mean Canterbury would sacrifice the desire to play expansively and counter-attack.
''We are always keen to attack. That is one of the traits of this team, we always want to have a go. It is important, it is what we want to do this season.
"We cannot defend our title - we have to go out and win it again and I think that will show in our play.''
Last year Canterbury had the best attacking record in the competition, averaging 38 points a game as they won their sixth consecutive title.
Losing the experienced George Whitelock, Corey Flynn and Andy Ellis, who played 213 NPC games between them, cannot be used as an excuse to retract into their shell.
Taylor said running the ball remained a priority and believed having a limited preparation could be beneficial as it ensured the team concentrated on the basics and didn't over-analyse what to expect from Auckland.
''That can be a good thing, it means you focus on yourselves.''