Hurricanes' Big Ben finds new life's a beach

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2013
Ben Franks
PHOTOSPORT
BABY MAKES THREE: Ben Franks and family. "It's a pretty big move for them, probably bigger than for me."

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Less is proving more for Hurricanes prop Ben Franks as he settles into his new life in the capital.

In fact the 28-year-old could have been excused for wondering if he'd misplaced some sizeable items of baggage after flying north from Christchurch.

Metaphorically he did, both on and off the field.

Rugby-wise Franks is thriving on the prospect of becoming a loosehead specialist after years of sharing game time with brother Owen and Wyatt Crockett.

And after battling through the Christchurch earthquake and its devastating aftermath, he says his young family are enjoying the freedom of their new surrounds.

"It's been quite funny because we are in Miramar, which is about five minutes from the beach," Franks smiled this week.

"I didn't even know Wellington had beaches like this.

"With the Crusaders and All Blacks we've always just been at the Intercontinental.

"Me and Owen would walk across the road and get a burrito and then go to training. That was about all I knew of Wellington.

"So as far as the city, yeah, it's fun at the moment just going out after training and looking around, getting a coffee. It's exciting, especially coming from Christchurch after the earthquakes. There's not a hell of a lot you can do at the moment."

The Hurricanes support network for families was one of the factors that drew Franks to the franchise and he says its been borne out by the way his partner Jenna and daughter Annabel have settled in.

"It's a pretty big move for them, probably bigger than for me," he said.

"I leave at 7am in the morning and get home at 5pm. My day's planned, in fact my whole year is pretty much planned, but they've had to get into a new routine.

"Jenna knew Hammer's [coach Mark Hammett] wife and a few of the All Blacks wives, so that's been good. The Hurricanes are actually one of the more pro-active teams around partners and getting them together, so Jenna's fit right in.

"She's found a local gym and Annabel has signed up to gymnastics and swimming. With all the other errands a stay at home mum has she's probably busier than I am."

Rugby was of course the main driver for Franks' decision to leave the Crusaders after seven years of Super Rugby service.

Though there is no bad blood with his former team, he admits he was tired of being a jack of all trades master of none due to his ability to play both sides of the scrum.

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In short, he was sick of sitting on the bench every other week.

"I get a lot of plaudits around how I train and stuff, but that's really just a product of wanting to play," Franks said.

"That's what I love the most, so my big part of coming up here is to just get on the field, week in week out. The All Blacks is always the pinnacle, but this is probably one of the first seasons where I'm not thinking so much about the All Blacks as each week's game and improving myself.

"I've brought in my focus now. I'm not having to worry about coming off the bench each week or starting, or switching sides.

"I've still got some learning to do at loosehead but I've narrowed the focus to just playing and hopefully people see that on the field. I feel a lot more relaxed. Everything's new and exciting and that's a nice feeling eight years into [the Super Rugby career]."

Franks knows he can't take anything for granted with youngster Reggie Goodes, versatile Ben May and rising rookie Eric Sione in the mix.

That said, there is an expectation the 23-test All Black will provide some solidity to a young scrum that held its own at best in 2012.

Franks' first assignment, assuming he starts in the No 1 jersey against the Blues on Saturday, will probably be to negate All Black team-mate Charlie Faumuina.

It'd go a long way to getting the dangerous Hurricanes backline some quality ball and justifying one of Super Rugby's biggest off-season transfers.

AT A GLANCE

Ben Franks

Age: 28

Position: Prop

Physical: 1.84m, 118kg

Born: Melbourne, Australia

Canterbury: 2005-06, 16 games

Tasman: 2007-11, 26 games

Hawke's Bay: 2013

Crusaders: 2006-present, 85 games

All Blacks: 23 tests, 2008-present

- © Fairfax NZ News

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