Highlanders looking for change of luck

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Thursday, March 9, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Coach Tony Brown said they were expecting 'a pretty physical game' in Auckland, although rough weather in the north could cast its influence over the event.

"There's meant to be a little bit of rain in Auckland so that might slow the game down a little bit but the physicality will be there, the intensity will be there so I think it's just going to be a real tough battle," he said.


The Highlanders may still be without a win but coach Tony Brown said they might just as well have won both games if they had a little luck and executed things better.

The tough nature of the New Zealand derbies had been borne out again during the first two weeks but Brown didn't think there was anything wrong with that.

"That's why New Zealand is the best in the world at rugby," he said.

Whenever the New Zealand sides met it was tough which was the way it was meant to be.

"That's why you play rugby and that's why people come to watch. I don't think there's something wrong. There would be something wrong if it wasn't tough," he said.

He said the All Blacks returning to the side were always expected to be a little rusty and that was evident in week one, and in week two they had produced 50-60 minutes of quality rugby and he was hopeful that would be extended to 80 minutes this week to produce a performance to be proud of.

Brown said they had decided to give All Blacks fullback Ben Smith another week off. He had been training well but the combination of recovery from concussion and he and his wife's expected arrival of a baby was behind his not playing.

He was hopeful that he would be available to play the Hurricanes next week if able to get through the concussion test requirements over the next few days.

"He's had no contact yet, he's still to pass a couple of tests around running and physical exercise, but he's been training with us and that's a positive sign for us," he said.

The side had 11 injuries in total at the moment, but Brown said that also meant 11 players had opportunities as a result.

"Rugby is all about taking opportunities and although we've got new guys in our squad they're all quality rugby players and we're expecting them to take the opportunity and play well," he said.