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Mauger sets away goals for Highlanders

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Lynn McConnell     14 Feb 2019     Getty Images

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said there was no silver bullet in fashioning a better away record but a lot of it came down to individual responsibility. He was speaking before the side's tough first away game of the year in Hamilton, on Friday, against the Chiefs.

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Mauger said he was happy with the pre-season and the way it had gone and some hard graft had gone in to be ready for this week.

Selection was tough because they had 38 players available to play.

Mauger said the first five-eighths position was going to be hotly-contested all year and they could have picked any of their three choices, Josh Ioane, Bryn Gatland and Marty Banks.

'We're really happy with where they're all at. I think Josh has really started to assert himself and showed that through our two pre-season games and just feel he's the best man to start this week and Bryn will come on and do a good job at the end of the game," he said.

"We're looking forward to seeing him go. He's worked extremely hard especially around his game management, understanding of the game and how to drive the team around the field. There's been a huge amount of growth, I thought he was outstanding in the Mitre 10 Cup last year and that's just flowed into pre-season this year so he takes a lot of confidence into the game on Friday," he said.
The late returns of All Blacks Waisake Naholo and Liam Squire had seen them miss the opening game as the attention was setting the team up early.

"We didn't think it would be right to put all those All Blacks under that much pressure going into the first round so we're going to manage how those guys come back in and the guys who have been here for the full pre-season have been outstanding and we've got faith in those guys to go and do the job," he said.

Mauger said they had paid a lot of attention to leadership in the side during the off-season, not only in the co-captaincy, where No.8 Luke Whitelock has stepped up with fullback Ben Smith, but in the leadership group overall.

"We just feel with Ben and Luke they are both going to both have high minutes, high involvement on the field and are both very influential in their own right. Luke will obviously do a lot of talking with the referees being closer to the action and Ben's influence through how we prepare and his influence out on the field is a great example of what we're looking forward to from him," he said.