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Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said yesterday Ioane, who had been starting for the Highlanders at second-five eighth before the season was suspended in March, was in competition for the number 10 jersey.
‘‘We see Josh as a 10. There is competition for that number 10 jumper between Josh, Mitch Hunt and Bryn Gatland. That is how we see things at the moment,’’ Mauger said.
Ioane had been tried in the midfield and had been patchy, but Mauger said he was unlikely to be played there again.
Many had criticised the use of Hunt at first five-eighth with Ioane, who played for the All Blacks last year, outside him, as the Highlanders won just one game before the competition was suspended.
Ioane had always been seen as a 10 and playing him one place further out was not an abject failure.
‘‘Mitch had copped a lot of flak, which was upsetting. But when your forward pack is on the front foot the job as a 10 is a whole lot easier. And we did not provide that as a pack.
‘‘That is the challenge for our forward pack now.’’
He said the Highlanders midfielders were back training hard and looking in good form, so there was plenty of options to look at.
Mauger said the intensity of training was increasing. The players were all in good health and he had been impressed with the physical fitness.
Some personal bests had been recorded in the Bronco fitness run on the first day back at training.
Mauger said the coaches had a good look at the start of the season and said the side was not playing at a high enough intensity for 80 minutes.
‘‘We just had to look at stuff, like we were not working hard enough to get back into in play, getting back into the line to be able to put teams under pressure.
‘‘With all these NZ derbies coming up we can’t afford to clock off for one minute.’’
Mauger felt the side had learnt from the start of the season and was out to make amends when the matches started.
His contract was up at the end of the season, but Mauger was not worried about his job and confident in his ability to coach, and felt the players had responded to his coaching.
The side faces the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 13 to kick off the revamped Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
A proposal to have golden point extra time had been floated by NZ Rugby, and Mauger though it was a great idea. He said it would come down to one moment in the game and would bring an exciting 10 minutes.
Other coaches were believed to thrown their support behind the golden point proposal. One wonders if they will be quite so supportive when their side ends up on the wrong end of a golden point scoreline.
The Highlanders had two draws last year against the Chiefs and Bulls, while the home match against the Crusaders was also deemed to be a draw after it was not played because of the Christchurch mosque attack.