Lions Scout: What we found in Super Rugby Round Eight

Lions Scout: What we found in Super Rugby Round Eight

Super Rugby is in full swing and, as the British & Irish Lions prepare to take on the All Blacks in 2017, we have got a keen eye trained on the competition and focused on the five New Zealand franchises.

Super Rugby is in full swing and, as the British & Irish Lions prepare to take on the All Blacks in 2017, we have got a keen eye trained on the competition and focused on the five New Zealand franchises.

The defending champion Highlanders and this season’s great entertainers the Chiefs were both on a bye week for the New Zealand franchises but that did not slow down the Kiwi assault on the competition.
 
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Don’t forget about Beauden
 
Aaron Cruden’s triumphant return to form and fitness for the Chiefs and Lima Sopoaga’s steady hand on the tiller for the Highlanders have attracted the majority of the attention in the battle to succeed Dan Carter as the All Blacks No.10.

But it would be churlish to write off Beauden Barrett – the Hurricanes fly-half is blessed with superb athleticism and is already a World Cup winner.

Barrett came off the bench to score a late try in their final success over Australia last year but started the 2016 season sluggishly.

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However he looked back to something approaching his best last weekend as the Canes put the Rebels to the sword.

Barrett crossed for two tries and an 18-point haul in total for last year’s runners-up, showing his opportunism and pace for the second.

The versatile Barrett covers full-back and fly-half for the All Blacks and – judging on this performance – will be back at the forefront of Steve Hansen’s plans.
 
Cory’s clicking into gear
 
One of the main reasons for the Canes’ perceived slow start to the season was the departure of two All Black legends in the back line in Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.

Throw in the campaign-ending injury to Nehe Milner-Skudder and clearly the Canes back line was weakened.

But the re-emergence of All Black winger Cory Jane has been a boost – he scored a fine try last weekend against the Rebels in his best all-round showing of the season so far.

With Waisake Naholo and Milner-Skudder both injured, Hansen has some decisions to make in his back three.
 
Israel’s return
 
Readers of our weekly preview will know that we flagged up Israel Dagg as one to watch on his return to Crusaders action this weekend.

Like his good mate Cory Jane, Dagg has been on the outside looking in when it comes to the All Blacks of late.

But his stunning return to action from his long shoulder injury lay-off this weekend could put him back into the spotlight.

The full-back scored two tries for the Crusaders – the second of which was a stunner – as they took care of the Jaguares in Christchurch.
 
Rieko’s not feeling Blue
 
Rieko Ioane has only just turned 19 but is already a try-scoring sensation for the Blues and a probable Olympian in Sevens at Rio 2016 this summer.

The winger scored a superb solo score this weekend as the Blues downed the Sharks in Auckland.

It was a tough week for the Blues who were mourning the untimely death of their former lock Kurtis Haiu and also saw Rene Ranger’s season ended with a knee injury.

But Ioane – who along with his brother No.8 Akira are both targeting an Olympic Sevens spot – has lifted spirits in Auckland.
 
Any Other Business
 
Elsewhere in Super Rugby, it was a brutal weekend for the Sunwolves who were battered 92-17 by the Cheetahs.

The Japanese side are still searching for their first win of the season.

The Brumbies claimed bragging rights with their derby win over the Waratahs and the Lions continued their fine start to the season by beating the Stormers.
 
 

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