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Versatile Anscombe still has eyes on No 10

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 15:21 27/02/2013
Gareth Anscombe
PETER DRURY/FAIRFAX NZ
TAKES TWO: Chiefs first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe is sandwiched in a tackle by Highlanders Lima Sopoaga, left, and Frae Wilson.

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Youngster Gareth Anscombe took to fullback for the Chiefs last Friday like he had been playing there throughout his brief career, but he still sees himself as a No 10.

Anscombe, a relatively late signing last year as the backup first five-eighth for the Chiefs when the Blues unexpectedly delisted him, stepped into the breach at fullback for the team's Super Rugby season opener against the Highlanders and produced an impressive display despite never playing there in a competition game before.

With Robbie Robinson and Andrew Horrell still a couple of weeks away from being able to play he looks set to play there again this Saturday against the Cheetahs at Waikato Stadium and then on the two-match South African tour.

But Anscombe, 21, still wants to develop his game in the pivotal position and sees that as his long-term goal.

Not that he is complaining about getting game time in the No15 jersey.

''It was exciting and a good opportunity for me,'' Anscombe said.

''I haven't really played much fullback but there is an opportunity there at the moment and I was pretty please.

''It wasn't all good, there's still lots to work on and I'm still learning what to do at the back.''

But he has had plenty of advice from assistant coaches Andrew Strawbridge and Wayne Smith, as well as an insight into his back-three responsibilities from the likes of winger Lelia Masaga.

''I think it's good for me to have another string to my bow and learn what it's like being at the back so I can understand that and there's lots of open space and plenty of running, so I'm quite enjoying it.''

But he dismisses talk of a permanent switch to the custodian jersey and move away from No10 where he started nine matches for the Blues last season as a 20-year-old.

''I definitely still want to be a first-five. I still see myself as a first-five and the coaches have indicated they still see me as a first-five, but we've got a few injuries at the moment and I'm happy to be at the back for now.

''But if it's a case of getting on the field then I don't care where I am and it can only help my prospects in the future as I think you almost have to be able to play two positions these days.''

It wasn't all perfect back there against the Highlanders and the coaches have given the back three the word that they need to improve their defence as a unit after allowing two soft tries,  Anscombe saying that was mostly to do with alignment and working as a threesome.

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And with Aaron Cruden still nursing a tender groin he also got handed the goal-kicking duties and kicked 8/9 for a 21-point contribution to the 41-27 victory.

''I was a little nervous beforehand, to be honest, not finding out till Thursday that I'd be kicking but I enjoy goal-kicking, it helps me out with my game.''

Meanwhile another player on debut for the Chiefs in last week's back three, big Fijian winger Patrick Osborne, celebrated the result of a lot of hard work, including losing 6kg in pre-season, by scoring a try against the Highlanders.

But he is the first to admit he needs to go looking for work more and is trying to model himself on fellow winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

''I was expecting more ball for me to run with in the middle and I didn't get much in the game, so my work rate needs to get amped up a bit.

''I need to get more touches but I'm a bit shy and a bit quiet in my first year here to demand the ball,'' Osborne said.

evan.pegden@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato

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