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Franklin relishes rugby time in Dunedin

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Lynn McConnell     19 Mar 2015     Getty Images

Now, at 24, and starting to make his way with the Highlanders, the rugby world is his oyster. Having been part of New Zealand's Under-20 world champion team in 2010, he made his provincial debut for Otago in 2011, his Investec Super Rugby debut in 2014 and toured with the Maori All Blacks last year.

"They are a great bunch of guys here and we all get on well. Guys who come down here from up north really enjoy it and I suppose winning helps," he said from the Highlanders training base.

Along the way he has added a Bachelor of Business Management degree at Otago University and has been on the ground floor in the Highlanders' rise from the Super Rugby doldrums in the past two years.

A try scorer in last week's impressive win over the Super Rugby champions, the Waratahs, he said he loves the style of rugby played in the south and has especially enjoyed his liaison over three or four years with Tony Brown, the Highlanders' assistant coach.

After some dominating performances in a disappointing Otago ITM Cup campaign he was determined to build on the Super Rugby progress he made last year.

"I put on four kilograms in the off-season and that has helped me withstand some of the knocks and I am doing a lot more work in stretching and recovery," he said.

While an injury delayed his start to the season, he has made up for lost time with impressive displays as the Highlanders have knocked over the Chiefs and Waratahs on successive weekends.

The challenges keep coming however and this weekend it is the unbeaten Hurricanes they will face in Dunedin.

"The Hurricanes have changed their game style and are playing a good brand of football. The Waratahs are an up the guts style of team while the Hurricanes like to move the ball around a bit.

"The win over the Waratahs was a big confidence booster for us and for me to be able to go out and contribute against a team with so many internationals was great.

"They were a huge team, and real physical but these challenges are awesome. I love that sort of style of play and hopefully this week we can kick in a bit more," he said.

Franklin said it had been a short week in terms of preparation for the game and while the side had felt off the pace in their first game, a week after all other sides had started, he felt they were hitting their straps now and were keen to keep building.

"We haven't started our games as well as we could have but we have to keep to our game plan and if we can do that we can get good results. We're aiming at the play-offs and to try and go a couple of steps further," he said.

Franklin is off contract at the end of the year but it would be no surprise if the Highlanders, and Otago, were keen to have his signature again.