Piutau itching to unleash on Super Rugby
Charlie Piutau is too young and too talented to feel the fear.
So the new Blues fullback is anything but daunted ahead of Saturday night's Super Rugby season opener against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Even though he probably should be.
This is a Blues squad as short on experience as it is long on promise as new coach Sir John Kirwan seeks to turn things round at a franchise that once set the standard for the entire competition.
The 21-year-old Piutau, arguably the standout individual in last season's NPC, hopes to be a big part of this planned resurgence and certainly possesses the characteristics required. He oozes confidence, as only the truly gifted can.
Asked about his emotions ahead of his first full campaign at this level (he played the final two games last year as an injury replacement), Piutau said: "There's a lot of excitement inside. I'm just itching to get out on the pitch.
"With a lot of new guys there's so much excitement and a lot of hunger at every training. Everyone is embracing this new challenge."
Piutau embodies the challenge facing the Blues this season. If he can make the step up in standard, and others of his ilk do likewise, then this Blues outfit could just about do a Hurricanes.
That is to say surprise a few people and confound the critics who believe lack of experience is going to find them out.
"I think you saw some teams last year with a few young guys do that - the Hurricanes for example. We definitely back ourselves and have confidence as underdogs we can get up on some teams in this competition," he said yesterday.
"We can draw a lot of motivation from that. Week in, week out we are going out there to prove a point, and I guess it's building a new era for the Blues."
Piutau says he took a heap of confidence out of his two Blues games last year into an ITM Cup season that saw him emerge as one of the most exciting young prospects in the country.
He's hoping for a similar surge over upcoming months as he looks to take his hard-running game to an even bigger audience.
"When I'm confident I play my best rugby. I really want to make the most of this opportunity but the first thing is trying to cement a spot and doing my part for the team. If we can do that as individuals then this team should shine.
"The main thing is we need to be ourselves and express who we are as individuals. That's pretty much what we're building - we're young, we need to go out and have fun and show our energy on the field."
Piutau has plenty of respect for what the Hurricanes achieved last year and figures they will be even better this time round.
"They've now got that experience and I rate them a good team," he said. "Their back three is certainly very dangerous."
But what the Blues lack in experience in their squad, they make up in their coaching group. Kirwan's motivational skills are already becoming legendary at the franchise, Mick Byrne is an astute sort and then there is the other knight, Sir Graham Henry.
"To have his wisdom and knowledge of the game is invaluable," Piutau said.
"Having Ted [Henry] on board is just gold really. He's showing me things I've never really seen in my own game which is just awesome."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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