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Hurricanes blow new wind into Franks' sails

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Sportal.co.nz     08 Feb 2013     Getty Images

Franks signed on with the Hurricanes looking for a fresh challenge after playing for the Crusaders since 2006.

He will make his first appearance for the Hurricanes in a pre-season match against the Melbourne Rebels in Geelong on Saturday.

The 28-year-old left the seven-time champions in search of more game-time after finding his path to the All Blacks tighthead spot blocked by younger brother Owen and Blues prop Charlie Faumuina, while Tony Woodcock, at the Highlanders this season, has a mortgage on the loosehead side when fit.

Franks made all eight of his All Blacks appearances off the bench last year but on the end of year tour was overlooked for the matches against Wales and England, where Faumuina was preferred on the bench.

Franks can play both sides of the scrum so is likely to get his wish of greater game time, although competition between himself, fellow senior front-rower Ben May and up-and-comers Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Reg Goodes is expected to be strong.

Asked whether or not the move to the capital would help his All Blacks career, Franks was unsure. "We'll see in six or seven months I suppose," he said.

"It's probably my first year I haven't really come in with goals around ... I love being an All Black but I really just want to take everything week by week and just enjoy playing my footy and just enjoy being a professional rugby player.

"My goals are solely with the Hurricanes and I'm not really looking too much further than this Saturday and going out and having some fun and playing some rugby."

Franks has recharged and refreshed by spending summer with the family in Christchurch.

But it is getting away from the familiar that has put a spring in the step of the 117kg prop.

"I just thought I needed a bit of a change," said Franks of his move away from the Crusaders.

"A change of environment, a change of voices. In the Crusaders team most of the team are All Blacks so you spend pretty much the whole year with the same guys.

"It's not that I was sick of them but it is refreshing to be in a totally different environment. It gives you new challenges."

For the first time since 2009 Franks won't be playing and training alongside his younger sibling either.

"It's definitely strange because we use each other a lot as training partners," admitted Franks.

"He's still my brother. We still talk regularly. But it's been good for me. It gets me out of my comfort zone a bit.

"There are a lot of guys here who have been jumping in and training with me so I'm enjoying that."

He is also enjoying passing on his knowledge to Toomaga-Allen, Goodes and Eric Sione, having benefited similarly from Greg Somerville and Dave Hewett when he started coming through the ranks in Christchurch.

"But it's a balance. I'm still a player and I'm still competing for a spot," Franks added.

"I try to help out as much as I can.

"The sessions we've had so far have been really good. There's a lot of really good competition.

"The scrum session today was a real physical one and everyone was having a really good crack. It's good to be in a real competitive environment."

Franks will be joined in the starting XV by fellow All Blacks Dane Coles and Victor Vito.

Julian Savea and Beauden Barrett are in the reserves but captain Conrad Smith won't make the trip as he eases his way back into action after a heavy workload last year.