They never expected to have a crowd tonight

Highlanders captain Ash Dixon will be happy even if he cannot hear the lineout calls.

Covid-19 had a grip on the nation for a couple of months and the idea fans might cram into Forsyth Barr Stadium for the Highlanders-Chiefs game tonight still seemed a product of fantasy as little as a couple of weeks ago.

That match was initially scheduled to be played at an empty stadium but that changed on Monday when the Government removed the restrictions on mass gatherings.

"To be honest, I don’t really know how it would have been playing in there with no noise," Dixon said.

"For once I’d probably be able to hear the lineout calls.

"But with a crowd here it definitely makes it an occasion."

"The last three weeks [of training] have been pretty awesome. To actually have a game at the end of it is quite nice.

"The boys are looking forward to this one. We get to play at home ... give the people what they want and we get a chance to play a bit of footy, which is good."

That is where the warm fuzzies end, though. Dixon is keenly aware of the scale of the challenge.

"We’ve got a challenge on our hands don’t we?" he said.

"[The Chiefs have] got a quality forward pack and a quality team right across the park.

"Anything can happen at Forsyth Barr. We’ve just got to back what we do, trust our process and have a go."

The Highlanders recorded just one win from five games before the tournament was suspended in March due to the pandemic.

"I think in the early part of the year our preparation wasn’t right. We probably let a few things slide right across the board.

"But we’ve managed to have a really good review and look at that part of our game that we needed to sort out."


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