Beauden Barrett Blues prepare for mid-April Beauden Barrett appearance, Rieko Ioane at centre

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Beauden Barrett Blues coach Leon MacDonald says they are committed to giving Rieko Ioane a crack at centre in 2020.


Blues coach Leon MacDonald says they are committed to giving Rieko Ioane a crack at centre in 2020.

Leon MacDonald will have to make do without one All Blacks superstar until mid-April but is banking on another coming in highly motivated from the off as he looks to make centre his home in 2020.

The Blues coach put his players through a contact 5-a-side hitout on Thursday as preparations ramp up for a fast-approaching Super Rugby season that kicks off impossibly early with a January 31 derby opener against the Chiefs at Eden Park.

Gone are the days, said MacDonald, when you did not introduce full tackling until after the New Year. But he and his peers remain very much anchored in a period when their leading players must be managed like precious commodities.

So star new signing Beauden Barrett will not make his first appearance for the franchise until the middle of April, MacDonald confirmed, with the All Blacks playmaker taking an extended holiday that was front and centre of his new deal.

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Barrett had already attended a session or two with his new squad to start the process of getting to know his team-mates but MacDonald said the plan was for the world-class No 10/fullback to be “on the grass” by mid-April.

That could seem him on board for the April 11 fixture against the Hurricanes at Eden Park – a likely target for obvious reasons – or possibly the clash against the Jaguares a week later.

That leaves the Blues to get through the first nine matches of their 16-game regular season w

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