Planet Rugby

Returning All Blacks please Rennie

28th January 2014 16:37

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Chiefs v Crusaders Aaron Cruden

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Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has been impressed by his quintet of returning All Blacks at the franchise's pre-season training base.

Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Sam Cane, Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick all joined up with the squad on Monday after an extended break at the end of a gruelling - and unbeaten - 2013.

But pleasantries were short-lived as the Test players were subject to the dreaded yo-yo fitness test, sparking plenty of competition among the squad at their Ruakura camp.

"They've come back in really well, as you'd expect," said Rennie.

"They're part of our leadership group and for them to turn up in anything other than good condition would be a pretty poor example. They're not quite as good as some of the other guys who've been in for a few weeks, but they're not far away.

"It's important that they have a decent break. I know some outfits have brought in players a little bit earlier but we were pretty keen for our guys to stay away. They've had two big years, a lot of those All Blacks, especially with us going to the final, they don't get much break between then and the international window."

The coach was careful to steer clear of his All Black recruits during their break, save for brief tactical discussions with fly-half Cruden, but was pleased with how they fared on their return.

There is less encouraging news regarding hooker, and New Zealand cap, Hika Elliot, whose career is in doubt in the wake of serious neck surgery.

"Obviously we've met with Hika, and so we'll go through a process now with New Zealand [Rugby] in regard to whether he'll play Super Rugby or not, this year," added Rennie.

"Over the next few months it'll give him a chance to do a bit of rehab and get a bit of training in and then he'll have to make some decisions about what he does after that. But it's pretty positive from a doctor's point of view that long-term he'll be able to play again, it's just when."

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