Tony Brown's troops ready for first hit out in Temuka

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All the statistics showed there would be more ball-in-play time, potentially fewer five-metre scrums while the captain's challenge provided a chance, especially in the late stages of games, to ensure correct refereeing decisions were being made, he said.


Brown said franchises would be left to manage their players in a more commonsense way this year.


"There's no real agreement with New Zealand Rugby. They want their players playing. We've just got to be smart around how we manage them," he said.


"We're in pretty close contact with the All Blacks coaches, and they'll let us know if we're potentially draining one of their players, and playing them too much."


The problem was not as big for the Highlanders who only have halfback Aaron Smith and flanker Shannon Frizell in the All Blacks. However, neither will be playing against Canterbury in Friday's warm-up game at Temuka.


That has given halfback contenders Folau Fakatava and Kayne Hammington chances to step up their rankings in Smith's wake. They will have 40 minutes each in the warm-up game.



"Folau had a great Mitre 10 Cup. He's probably opened the door for himself. We've got the best halfback in the world in Aaron Smith and Folau can offer something a little bit different to Aaron.


"Hopefully, he continues with that same form and he can be a real impact option for us off the bench.


"And, then, when we do need to give Aaron a bit of a break, Folau can go out and start a game of rugby without too much of a disruption to the team," he said.


Brown said Japanese loose forward Kazuki Himeno had arrived in New Zealand and was completing managed isolation. That would delay his playing start with the side until at least the second round of Super Rugby Aotearoa.


"He's pretty excited to be in New Zealand and he can't wait to get out [of isolation].


"Obviously if you have two weeks in isolation, with not a lot of training, I think you're going to have to have two weeks of good training after that," Brown said.


He had been training in Japan and was fit but it was asking too much of him to expect him to come in and play straight away.


Also missing from the side on Friday will be Liam Squire, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Josh Ioane, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u and Solomon Alaimalo. However, their injuries were niggles and most would be considered for the second warm-up game next week.



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