Rugby: Wind of change for Hurricane Taylor

Andre Taylor. Photo at Getty
Andre Taylor. Photo at Getty
Andre Taylor's exploits with the Hurricanes last season took even him by surprise.

One of the most effective broken-field runners around, Taylor's performances helped him to 10 tries - a competition high alongside Bjorn Basson of the Bulls - and the brink of an All Blacks call-up.

The danger he presented from fullback or wing was ever-present for opposition defences and looking back at the footage now he can hardly believe it himself.

"To be honest, out of my whole rugby career that was probably my best season," said 25-year-old Taylor of his third year at the Hurricanes. "There were things there I didn't know that I could do. It just sort of happened. You go back and watch it and it's like, 'oh yeah, I can do that', which gives you belief and confidence to try and keep going.

"It gives me confidence going into this year but I also know the opposition would have studied what I did and how I attacked last year. This year I have to find some way of varying my choices and options. It's going to be tough but working with my back three and players inside me, I should be able to change a few things."

Many of Taylor's best matches came at fullback, but he is likely to be used more on the wing this season given Cory Jane's knee injury which will rule the All Black out for most of the year.

Beauden Barrett, a first-five who can also play fullback, could be used in the No15 jersey which the national selectors, who see the 21-year-old as a real option at the back, will not be unhappy about.

Julian Savea, the All Blacks wing, makes up a pacy and exciting back three for the Hurricanes.

"There's a bit more workload now with CJ and his experience out. But we're still using him to help us out tactically," Taylor said. "He hasn't gone off the radar but there's more onus on me and probably Julian Savea to take control of the back three."

The Hurricanes host the Blues in Wellington on Saturday night and Taylor draws a comparison between what Sir John Kirwan is attempting to build at the Auckland franchise and Mark Hammett's work at bringing together what appeared to be a dysfunctional Hurricanes outfit.

Hammett's men were written off after the departures of Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu to the Blues, but it was Pat Lam's men who reached rock bottom, rather than Hammett's.

Taylor has seen plenty of the Blues' pre-season matches to know they will be dangerous. A narrow loss to Queensland across the Tasman was followed by victories over the Waratahs and Highlanders.

"They've still got a lot of players from last year so it doesn't change much for us. They're a pretty strong side. Watching their pre-season matches, they look quite structured so it's something we can't take lightly.

"They've got a few attacking backs like Rene Ranger and Charles Piutau and Frank Halai who looks like Jonah Lomu, so it's not going to be easy.

"It's similar to us last year. Everyone underestimated us and we did better than everyone thought and that's why we can't take this week lightly."

As for his contact with the All Blacks selectors - head coach Steve Hansen admitted Taylor was on his radar - the man himself said it was positive and left him with food for thought.

It's about adding to his game, without losing what makes him such an exciting presence with ball in hand.

"Ian Foster rang me a couple of times. He told me never to give up and that I was on the outskirts [of selection]. He said I had to work on my kicking game, to get more distance, and to use other players more and things like that. I've gone away and thought about that and tried to use it in pre-season."

As the New Zealand Super 15 teams prepare to kick off in 2013, surprise package Taylor is hoping to do it all again.


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