Canterbury prepare for Shield challenge
Listening to motivational speeches and watching movie montages aren't usually the conventional make-up of a week of training for the Canterbury rugby squad, but then again this isn't just another ordinary week.
With the Ranfurly Shield on the line when they take on Taranaki tomorrow afternoon, Canterbury have turned to the history books to assist with their preparation and to help ready the young members of the squad understand the mountain that lays in wait for them.
Senior players among the group yesterday spoke of past shield experiences, the difference in intensity from normal matches and how teams lift to a new level when the Log o' Wood is on the line.
"It's been a really good week for us," coach Tabai Matson said.
"Some of the players put together a movie montage, which was run by Andy Ellis, of our shield history. That was really special.
"A lot of the senior guys got up and talked about their experiences. A lot of them said that you play and win a lot of games but it's the shield games which are embedded in your memory because they are so special."
Matson didn't need to search too far back in his own memory to recall the nature of a shield challenge.
He was part of the Canterbury side that wrestled the shield off Waikato in 1994, and was also there a week later when they defended it against Otago.
"They are career highlights for me, playing for the Ranfurly Shield was a great experience," he said.
"Normally, they are so rare but what has been interesting is that over the past four or five years we have either had it or had a crack at it.
"It's usually something like every six to 10 years but we are just lucky that the stars have aligned and we have another shot in 2012.
"We have created a bit of momentum over the last couple of weeks but we have to play well again.
"This week has been focused on doing our homework against a really good Taranaki side.
"We have had two really good trainings and now we just have to make sure we are ready for another level of intensity."
Canterbury will be without the in-form Johnny McNicholl, who has been sidelined with a strained quad.
"Johnny is really gutted, it was one of those injuries that got worse overnight so he's out this week but hopefully he will be back for next week," Matson said.
McNicholl's injury gives Patrick Osborne his second start of the season on the wing, while, with the return to the starting lineup of Robbie Fruean at centre, Adam Whitelock pushes out to the other wing.
The only other change in the starting line-up is at halfback with Andy Ellis again set to marshall the troops. Willi Heinz drops back to the bench.
With Corey Flynn injured, Codie Taylor is back on the bench and Sam Monaghan comes in to cover for McNicholl.
Canterbury: Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Patrick Osborne, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andy Ellis, Nasi Manu, Matt Todd, George Whitelock (c), Dominic Bird, Luke Katene, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Joe Moody. Res: Codie Taylor, Paea Fa'anunu, Joel Everson, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Telusa Veainu, Sam Monaghan.
Taranaki: Kurt Baker, Waisake Naholo, Willie Rickards, Jayden Hayward, Frazier Climo, James Marshall, Chris Smylie, Blade Thomson, Scott Waldrom, Jarrad Hoeata, James Broadhurst, Craig Clarke (c), Michael Bent, Timo Tutavaha, Chris King. Reserves: Sione Lea, Carl Carmichael, Jason Eaton, Chris Walker, Brett Goodin, Jack Cameron, Jackson Ormond.