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Anscombe rises to the challenge

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Sportal.co.nz     27 Mar 2013     Getty Images

The papers have been filled with hype around the former Blues first-five's first encounter against a franchise he was dumped from after the 2012 season.

Despite being one of the side's more consistent performers last year, Anscombe was delisted by new Blues coach Sir John Kirwan in one of his first actions as leader.

Having not seen it coming, Anscombe made the move down State Highway One to Hamilton, where he was picked up by Dave Rennie and the defending champion Chiefs.

The story makes Easter Saturday's clash between the two sides at Baypark Oval in Mount Maunganui a marketing dream.

However Anscombe isn't being caught up in all of the hoop-la, instead focusing on honing his craft in the No.15 jersey.

The move to Hamilton has helped blossom the No.15, whose maturity eclipses his age of 21.

"I'm obviously still really young and a year's experience has really helped. I feel so much more comfortable at this level."

His comfort comes from winning, and he couldn't have ended up at a better team than the defending champions when it comes to registering victories.

A 34-36 slip-up at Newlands to the Stormers aside, the Waikato franchise has regained its 2012 title-winning form that was built on composure and a clinical edge.

Their northern neighbours' record, at two wins and two losses, has had the gloss removed courtesy of consecutive losses to the Bulls and Waratahs.

The mastery from coach Dave Rennie has also worked a treat, with his placement of Counties Manukau midfielder Tim Nanai-Williams in the No.13 jersey proving a particularly impressive masterstroke.

Anscombe said Rennie's guidance - and that of fellow coaches Andrew Strawbridge and Wayne Smith - has helped him settle into the fullback position.

"I guess with specialist coaches you get to work hard in different areas. I think that has also been key to an improvement in this year.

"I've been working hard with the coaches and when your team's doing well it makes it easier."

While playing at first-five for the Blues last season, Anscombe said dropping back to fullback has helped add "a string to the bow" when it comes to identifying opposing team formations and defensive patterns.

"Playing fullback has been a steep learning curve for me," admitted Anscombe.

"It's good in a sense that you get to understand how a fullback seems to think."
Anscombe acknowledged Rennie's vision and credited him for creating a relatively smooth transition.

"[Rennie]'s been pretty good in terms of giving me some new ideas on how to play.

"He's given me a bit more confidence, belief, hard work and helped identify areas I need to work on.

"I'm starting to build more confidence at this level and when you start feeling that confidence you start to play your best."