Chiefs first five-eighth recruit Gareth Anscombe has noticed a more positive culture at his new Super Rugby franchise, compared to the atmosphere at the Blues.
Having made his Super Rugby debut last year, Anscombe went on to win 10 caps, before being delisted in September by incoming Blues coach John Kirwan.
After the defending champion Chiefs came calling, Anscombe has found a new home down State Highway 1 and he couldn't be happier with his new Hamilton base.
Asked if it was a different environment at the Chiefs from what he had previously been in, the 21-year-old gave a sly response.
"It's funny, I was thinking about that the other day," he said. "I think there is a different sort of culture feeling. Hard to put my finger on what it is, but it definitely does seem a little different. It's all been real positive. I've really enjoyed it. It's a good group of boys here; everyone's always willing to learn. You don't feel too bad making mistakes; it's a good learning environment."
It's a subtle verbal dig at the Blues, who overlooked Anscombe before he produced some outstanding ITM Cup form for Auckland.
His new coach, Dave Rennie, reckons he's on to an absolute winner with the new pivot, who will put pressure on Aaron Cruden for the No 10 jersey.
"I've been really impressed with Gareth," Rennie said. "He is very smart; he's incredibly fit and quick. He's got a great skill set, he'll have one of the best tactical kicking games in the country. He's got a real clear understanding of what we're trying to do and his ability to organise people around him is first class.
"He's been really impressive and he's got a fantastic work ethic. He wants to learn, he's willing to work hard, so we couldn't be happier with him.
"So we're very lucky, we've got, we believe, if you include Andrew Horrell, probably three of the best first fives in the country."
Cruden and the other All Blacks rejoin the squad next week and Anscombe, who wants to become stronger in contact, is looking to impress in the three preseason matches, starting next weekend.
"Cruds had an outstanding season last year and was, in my eyes, the best 10 in the comp," Anscombe said. "It will be real good, I think, to learn off him and challenge him, and hopefully pick up bits of each other's game; I think that will only be good for the side as well."
Cruden was a permanent fixture in the starting XV last year, but with the arrival of Anscombe that may change.
"I'm definitely not the type of person who likes to just sit on the bench," Anscombe said. "But obviously he's an All Black as well. It will be a bit different, but the chance is there to hopefully play well and get the trust of the boys, and hopefully get a few games and just see what happens. Hopefully a few opportunities arise for me and I can take them. It will be good for both of us."
- Waikato Times