Blues rookie Hall set for take-off

Getty Images     28 Jan 2013     Getty Images

Standing behind a woeful North Harbour pack that featured in more bloopers than highlight reels of last year's ITM Cup, the 20-year-old halfback flew relatively unnoticed until picked up on the radar of coach Sir John Kirwan in September.

Preparing to soar in the pre-season, the former New Zealand Under-20 captain gave punters a heads-up about what he has to offer Auckland's premier rugby franchise in coming months.

"I've taken a few things from Aaron [Smith], he's kind of revolutionized the game by going back to that Graeme Bachop style, but in saying that I've watched a lot of Tawera Kerr-Barlow," Hall told Sportal of the influences on his style of play.

"I try to take a few things of each halfback and add them to my own individual aspects."

Aspiring to first reach, and then raise the benchmark set by the nation's top players, Hall said having an incumbent All Black guiding him into his first Super Rugby season had done wonders for his confidence.

"We've had a couple of talks. He [Weepu] just said open your mouth and make sure that people hear your voice," Hall said.

While former Hurricane Weepu will likely be calling the shots from the base of the ruck for most of the season, Hall is pitted in a tight battle with fellow rookie Jamison Gibson-Park for a bench spot behind the World Cup star.

A pivotal figure in a Taranaki side which defended the Ranfurly Shield seven times, before handing it over to Waikato, the latter certainly has the advantage heading into the opening rounds of 2013 but Hall feels he has only benefited from the competition.

"We grew up together - he was at Gisborne Boys and we played against each in the provincial competition," Hall said of his 20-year-old rival.

"We've just been working on each other and trying to improve.

"I guess it's not a hate relationship; we just want to work together and become better."

For any newbie, the Super Rugby schedule can be a shock to the system. Heading towards the end of a demanding off-season fitness programme Hall feels the common struggle of his team-mates has built strong camaraderie within the group.

After an extensive clean-out, following their woeful finish at the bottom of the table last year, that included coaches and the majority of the playing squad, there are positive signs of progress among Kirwan's youthful troops.

The addition of World Cup winning coach Sir Graham Henry has been a huge pulling factor for many incoming players, including Hall who is soaking up every word uttered by the legendary mentor.

"There are a lot of great coaches here so I just want to improve my game. If I can do that then hopefully I can get a position on the team. And if not I just want to be a player that can help out the boys," Hall said.

The Blues will announce their first line-up of the season on Thursday ahead of the first pre-season hit-out against the Reds on February 2 in Queensland.

Matches against the Highlanders (Whangarei) and the Waratahs (Queenstown) are scheduled for ensuing weeks.