Brown hoping returning Highlanders can get through pre-season hit-outs

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Some answers should be seen in the side's pre-season programme ahead of their February 19 competition opener against the Chiefs.


Top of the list will be the effect of having half Folau Fakatava, three-quarter Thomas Umaga-Jensen and midfielder Fetuli Paea back from injuries that minimised their contribution in 2021.


"Folau has been impressive at training, and it is exciting to see him back to, hopefully, the form he showed in 2021," Brown said.


“Thomas Umaga-Jensen has had a horrible run of injury over the last three years. He is probably one guy in our team that, if he has a good campaign, will put his hand up for All Black selection.”

Tony Brown


Another looking for every chance he can get with the side is Sam Gilbert. The competition is intense for fullback with Connor Garden-Bachop, Vilimoni Koroi and Solomon Alaimalo contenders for the role, although, Alaimalo is still to return after taking a break for personal reasons.


Gilbert said: "I've always seen myself as a sort of 15 who can cover wing but I'm loving playing 15 and [am] happy to take any chance I get there."


Demands on fullback had changed on the back of recent law changes. The 50:22 had increased the pressure to deal with the kicking demands.


Gilbert said he didn't think it was understood how much it had changed the game.


"It was under-utilised a bit during [the Bunnings Cup] as teams got used to it," he said.


He expected as teams understood its value more, its use would become more prevalent.


Warm-up games for the side would provide an indication of how teams wanted to use the law and what adaptations would be required defensively, he said.



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