Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says the cancellation of their trip to Argentina during the international window has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Rennie said they also could not have contemplated a mid-week match against the touring French such as the Blues played earlier this week in Auckland.
Instead the Chiefs returned to full training at the start of this week and their only game time before they resume their Super Rugby campaign against the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium on June 28, will be two 40-minute practice outings against Counties-Manukau and Bay of Plenty on Tuesday.
"As it's turned out, with all the injuries we've had, it has been a blessing that we didn't go to Argentina," Rennie said.
"And it wouldn't have been ideal this year to be playing a game against a touring international side either."
Not that Rennie is against the idea of Super Rugby franchises taking on touring international sides during the international window.
"It's brilliant for provincial teams and franchises to play against international sides and that was a big part of the reason why we were keen to go to Argentina and play the Pumas over there.
"For a lot of guys who may never become All Blacks it would be the pinnacle of their careers," he said.
But the lack of rugby during the Chiefs' second bye and then four-week break before the Hurricanes match has enabled those players still injured to try and get themselves right and the rest to work hard on rugby-specific training, sharpening up areas of their game they didn't have time to work on when building towards matches.
Rennie said the Blues had been able to play a lot of players against France who had had little game time during the first 15-16 weeks of Super Rugby, while the Chiefs had given most of their squad game time due to both player rotation and injuries.
Tuesday's low-key hitout against the Steelers and Steamers, with the latter two then playing 40 minutes against each other, would be used to recreate various game scenarios and the coaches would be wired up to referee Shane McDermott to enable that.
"For example instead of a kickoff we might give the ball to the opposition 20 metres out and tell them to go for it so we are defending in certain situations."
Rennie said after Tuesday's hitout the following day would be used for a review, recovery and remedial work and then preparations for the Hurricanes game would start on the Thursday and Friday.
The Chiefs will have their five All Blacks - Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick, Ben Afeaki and Tawera Kerr-Barlow - returning after the three-test series against France but the head coach was not worried about the workload those players were having ahead of the last three Super Rugby regular season matches.
"Obviously we're concerned about the injury to Brodie as he is a massive weapon for us, but for the others our guys are probably training harder than the All Blacks are.
"We're using this time to sharpen up with a lot of rugby-specific training and we are putting a fair bit of time into areas of our game that we haven't been able to dedicate much time to during the season."
The Chiefs coaches have also spent time on planning and contracting and overall have also been able to do more work in the community and with sponsors.
Rennie was pleased with the performances of his All Blacks in the first test against France and was disappointed at the criticism of Messam's game in some areas of the media. "I thought Liam was huge - he made a lot of tackles and did a lot of the graft that you want your No 6 to do - and the fact there are still people questioning his input highlights those people's lack of knowledge," he said.
- Waikato Times
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