MacDonald's men running out the summer Blues

By James Perry

In 25 degree temperatures, the Blues were put through their paces in a full contact training session today.

As many workers around the country are winding down for the year, Leon MacDonald's side are just warming up. 

Co-captain Blake Gibson says, "it's definitely heated up.  We've just got to stay hydrated, work hard." 

Since taking over the head coach role from Tana Umaga in November, MacDonald has wasted no time in getting into his work.  Umaga has become an assistant coach, alongside Tom Coventry.  

MacDonald says, "When you've got three new coaches all wanting to print their game on the team, leaving it 'till after Christmas is too late."

The former Māori All Black is also hopeful that an early re-introduction to game situations will pay off. 

"The more we have the ball in our hands, with the fitness- it's got to be good for our game."

With Auckland winning the Mitre 10 Cup for the first time in over a decade this year, expectations among some Blues supporters are to see something similar in their super rugby side. 

Lyndsay Snowden, a lifelong Blues fan, told Te Kāea one thing that stuck out in the Mitre 10 Cup was Auckland's attitude, and their unwavering determination to succeed, he is hoping that will seep across town to the Blues. 

Gibson says his side aren't feeling the pressure to emulate Auckland's premiership victory, but says his side is hungry for success nonetheless. 

"We obviously want to win the comp, we wouldn't be here if we didn't," he says.

After a bad knee injury prevented Tūhoe's Otere Black from making his Blues debut last season, an impressive return for the Manawatū Turbos saw him earn selection for the Māori All Blacks historic tour to South America last year.

The Blues will be looking forward to having the former Hurricane guiding them around the field in 2019.

"Obviously he's a good leader on the field so he'll direct us around and I think we've got the forward pack to do that.  We've worked hard on our skills.  If we can get good ball for those backs I'm sure they'll create opportunities," Gibson says of his former NZ U20's team mate.

The squad will have a short break over the Christmas period, before getting back to training early in the new year.