Rennie pleased with his returning All Blacks’ fitness

Double Super Rugby winning coach Dave Rennie says that he likes what he has seen from his five All Blacks who returned to training this week.

Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Sam Cane, Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick have been on leave until now but reported for training on Monday.

Rennie said that once they hit their Ruakura base the meet and greets were quickly over and they were swiftly treated to a yo-yo fitness test.

Rennie added that a critical component of the Chiefs combative but high-paced game is fitness.

“They’ve come back in really well, as you’d expect,” Rennie told Fairfax NZ News of his top five.

“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.”

In the off-season break Rennie left his All Black players alone with the exception of occasionally speaking to Cruden about some subtle changes in tactics they’re looking at implementing.

Rennie said that this Friday the team will have an internal hit out with a few extras but none of the All Blacks will take part

Next week on Saturday the Chiefs will play a Super Rugby warm up match against the Reds in Toowoomba which Messam and Retallick will sit out but everyone should play against the Blues in Rotorua on February the 14th.

The Chiefs will open their Super Rugby season against the Crusaders in Christchurch on February the 21st.

One of the Chiefs new recruits Liam Squire is a loose forward and is touch-and-go for that game as he suffered a knee cartilage injury.

His fellow loosie Tevita Koloamatangi has injured his knee too but could return for the Blues warm up while prop Ben Tameifuna should be back in the coming days after he rolled his ankle last week.

“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,” Rennie said.

“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.”

The Chiefs still have a hooker worry with Mahonri Schwalger still getting over knee and eye issues and Hika Elliot’s future is still in doubt after he underwent neck surgery.

Rennie said that there was a lot of desire among what is a “pretty competitive group” who are looking to make it three in a row or a three-peat of titles.

“They’re really determined, still the same sort of characteristics we’ve talked a lot about in the last couple of years around hard work and so on.”

“I guess our job is to continue to create an environment where we grow further and have guys who are just as desperate as we were to win a first title a couple of years ago, and to front again. I think that’s the good thing about bringing new players in, they all want to be part of a winning team.”

Rennie added that even though Craig Clarke has moved on they will probably still use co-captains and will confirm who will lead the team in the near future.

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