Cowan ready for challenge on home turf

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Lynn McConnell     16 Apr 2015     Getty Images

He was expecting some jibes down there, but that was of no concern to him. He was more concerned to help the Blues build on their first win last weekend.

"We all know how they [the Highlanders] play, they are a very passionate bunch and when you look at last week's game they've taken every opportunity by scoring points with the opportunities. They've got threats right across the park with a backline that are playing very well.

"Aaron [Smith] is leading them well from scrum-half and you've got Lima [Sopoaga] directing the ship well," he said.

Cowan, who missed last week's win because he was on paternity leave, said the side hadn't made it easy for him watching from afar, but he was pleased the side had its first win and had lifted the monkey from their shoulders.

But the second half had been representative of their season.

"Now we can really push forward into the competition not worrying about getting our first win, so onwards and upwards from here," he said.

"It's certainly a challenge the way they [the Highlanders] are playing. It's different from when I was there, they are playing a winning brand of rugby. When I was there we weren't quite where they are at the moment.

"They are playing well and you have to give them credit. They beat the Crusaders last week and they've had an away win against the Chiefs so they are probably the form team of the competition or one of them anyway.

"We realise the challenge that is ahead but we are looking forward to it. It's a great place to play. I've had a season under the roof down there and thoroughly enjoyed it so I think our boys will enjoy the roof and a dry ball so we are looking forward to getting down there and playing a style of football we know we can play," he said.

Debut starter flanker Akira Ioane said he was a little nervous, mainly because he didn't want to let the team down, but he was also excited and he was ready to go on Saturday.

While a member of the wider training group he had no expectations of match play. He said all he could do was put the effort in and hope that a chance came his way.

He said All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua had taken him under their wings and were keeping him in line.

Their message had been, 'to train hard and if you do get the opportunity then take it with both hands and work ethic on and off the field', he said.

The Blues take on the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday. Kick off at 7.35pm NZT, with pre-game coverage on Sky Sport 1 from 7pm NZT. Click here for tickets.