Chiefs starting 'from scratch'

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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It's not just the new boys who are out to make an impression in the Chiefs' first pre-season outing of the year in Taupo today.

With plenty of competition for places in the squad, even the older players are having to prove their worth to earn a spot in the starting XV come competition time. One of those keen to show his wares against the Highlanders today is experienced halfback Brendon Leonard, who is into his seventh season with the franchise.

The 27-year-old former All Black has been usurped somewhat by Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22, who rose to the All Blacks ranks for their end-of-year tour last year.

Throw into the mix the exciting Augustine Pulu, 23, who debuted for the Chiefs last year, and Leonard, despite having 69 caps behind him, must be feeling the pinch.

"The coaches have always said it's going to come down to form rather than any previous play over the last couple of years," Leonard said.

"So it's all about, in those trial games, making sure you're fit and ready to go and mentally you're switched on.

"It's not just a warmup game as it may have been in previous years.

"It's proper game time for you to put your best foot forward to try and get some game time in the competition."

Leonard said the competition for positions would hopefully make each individual better and therefore improve the team as the Chiefs search for a second successive Super Rugby title.

However, what was achieved last year has been put to one side, with the focus having to be on a whole new campaign.

"I think we realise it's a new year and we've got to start again; we've got to go out and just start from scratch almost," Leonard said.

"There's plenty of competition, you look around and all the other New Zealand teams are all going to be strong."

Leonard, who has recently been turning out for the Kaipaki side in the Waikato Valley club cricket competition, said everyone was "itching" to get into the season after some long and physical days of training.

He said today would be about getting their basic foundations right at set-piece, the tackle contest and ruck play.

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- Waikato Times

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