Lessons of last year to be used

Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty
Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty
The Highlanders will not go into the tens tournament totally blind but they will still be feeling their way as the action gets under way this afternoon.

The New Zealand sides - and the Australian sides too, no doubt - treat the tens competition for what it is - a bit of a run around and a chance for the players to get their hands on the ball.

It is very much seen as a distraction with the start of the season proper just two weeks away.

Tens is not sevens but it is also not the 15-man game.

It has more structure than sevens which can become a bit of a lottery but there is still an emphasis in tens on speed and the need to find space.

The Highlanders, who have taken their entire squad to Brisbane, only took to the training field to practise for tens yesterday so they will need to hit the ground running when they take on defending champion the Chiefs at 5.39pm today.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said earlier in the week the side had learned much from last year's tournament and would use that in the games in pool play.

``What we did find was that there needed to be a bit more structure than we had expected. We had that first crack at it last year and what was found was we changed our approach about halfway through the tournament,'' he said.

Mauger was not involved last season but assistant coach Mark Hammett was part of the coaching team last year.

The three extra players on the field in tens as opposed to sevens do make a difference to the game and cut down on space.

It becomes more of a game about territory and possession as players become more defined in their roles. The focus switches to hanging on to the ball and building pressure as opposed to immediately scoring once a team gets the ball

After playing the Chiefs, the Highlanders will take on the Waratahs later tonight.

The Waratahs suffered a blow when Kurtley Beale cried off yesterday with an elbow injury.

The Highlanders' final match of pool play will be against French club side Pau tomorrow.

The Highlanders will not start any of their All Blacks and there is a fairly green tinge to the Highlanders backline.

Young back Josh McKay looked good in the couple of touches he had last weekend in Queenstown and will chase opportunities.

Pita Alatini is the wildcard for the Highlanders and Mauger said he was looking forward to seeing him in action.

Forwards Luke Whitelock and Alex Ainley did not have a runaround last week so will look to get some game time under their belts.

There are 12 teams in the competition and the top six teams across all three pools will qualify for finals play. The top two qualifiers will receive a bye into the semifinals, while the teams ranked three to six will contest two qualifying finals.

The temperature is expected to be above 30degC in Brisbane both today and tomorrow, but it will be nowhere near the stifling temperatures of last year where the spectators were forced to stay out of the sun in the stands because of the intense heat.


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