All Blacks star Beauden Barrett has returned from lockdown in peak condition as the Blues returned to training on Monday ahead of the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.
It’s been more than two months since the Auckland franchise played their last match against the Lions at Eden Park on March 14 after Super Rugby was suspended due to international travel restrictions enforced because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The five New Zealand franchises resumed training on Monday, though, and the Blues welcomed their backs to their Alexandra Park base in Epsom to kickstart their pre-season with a fitness test known as the Bronco.
The drill, which is used as a measurement of aerobic endurance, sees players run shuttles of 20 metres, 40 metres and 60 metres five times over as quickly as possible.
After having cleared a contactless temperature check from team doctor James McGarvey, all members of the Blues’ self-described ‘Backs Bubble’ embarked on the gut-busting test in a video posted on the club’s social media channels.
The Blues claimed that eight personal bests were set during the drill, with new playmaking recruit Barrett leading the pack with a rapid time of four minutes and 12 seconds in what the franchise indicated was a new club record.
By comparison, former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw’s best time in the 1.2km test was four minutes 56 seconds, according to rugbysmart.co.nz.
“PB [personal best], mate, always happy with a PB,” a short-breathed Barrett said at the finish line. “I don’t know how much kicking I’ll be doing after this, though.”
Barrett, who is still yet to make his Blues debut after transferring from the Hurricanes on a four-season deal last year, was closely followed by halfback Jono Ruru, who completed the drill just two seconds after the two-time World Rugby player of the year.
Elsewhere, the Crusaders returned to training in Christchurch, with numerous players telling Newshub of their excitement to be back in action upon arrival at the club’s training ground.
“I have young children at home so it’s been awesome to spend some quality time with them,” loose forward Whetu Douglas said.
“I’m loving this though – been excited all morning and been here a couple of hours waiting to get in.
“It’s good to be back.”
Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off on June 13 when the Highlanders host the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
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