The Hurricanes returned to training this week and moved straight into fitness tests and strict return-to-training protocols.
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According to the All Blacks' official website, head coach Jason Holland said day one back at training was awesome and his players were like little kids who could finally go outside after being stuck inside for so long.
Ardie Savea missed the opening part of the season, recovering from knee surgery, but pre-Covid-19 he was all set to return to play a few weeks ago. Holland said he is a good chance of featuring in Round 1 of Super Rugby Aotearoa, but they are monitoring him.
“With Ardie it’s not massively important that he plays in Round 1 if it’s not the absolute right thing for him to do. We have four weeks where we will take our time with Ardie and in two weeks’ time we will have a better idea as to whether he is ready to go.
“But he has a smile on his face, and he was doing everything with the boys at training. We will do the best thing by Ardie and if he doesn’t make it to game one, then I’m sure there will be lots of other boys chomping at the bit and Ardie won’t be far away.”
Savea hasn’t played since last year’s World Cup, where he featured at 6, 7 and No 8 throughout the tournament. Holland is a big fan of Savea at the back of the scrum.
“I think No 8 suits his game. He gets his hands on the ball a lot more, being the massive carrier he is. By the same token, I think you’ve seen the way we approached the start of our year with our nines and tens. We want a bit of flexibility to start and finish games in a certain way and that’s not different with Ardie. The ability for him to play 8 and 7 is going to be massive for us.”
The Hurricanes underwent fitness testing on their first day back, with personal bests being set in the Bronco Test. Holland confirmed Jordie Barrett didn’t quite complete the test as fast as his older brother Beauden, but he was happy with the nick his players were in.
Like all New Zealand Super Rugby teams, the Hurricanes are easing their way back into full contact training. Their trainer David Gray has made sure the coaches and players are being smart about their return to play.
“David has put the leash on us a little bit, which has been smart,” said Holland.
“We are really looking at nothing more than medium intensity for the first week, so we will do what we call contact progression where we ease in and do some stuff at 50% this week. We have got to see the bigger picture which is that we are four weeks away and we would rather have a fit crew and don’t want to rush into it.”
The Hurricanes kick off Super Rugby Aotearoa against the Blues in Auckland on Sunday, 14 June and Holland knows it’s going to be an exciting product for fans all around the world.
“There will be limited sport on and it’s going to be a good style of footy. It’s going to be pretty brutal and physical and we have to think about how we manage or teams and make sure we rotate our boys. But I have mates in Ireland and England who can’t wait for some footy to start so they have something to watch and that’s going to be good.”