New Hurricanes first five Ruben Love will have a mission on his hands on Sunday afternoon, lining up against on-form All Black Richie Mo’unga – but he may be able to cause some damage of his own.
The 19-year-old, in just his second Super Rugby match, has replaced Counties Manukau’s Orbyn Leger and has the tough task of trying to help the Hurricanes get their season back on track after succumbing to the Blues last weekend.
The Wellington-based side have just one win to their name this year – against the Highlanders late last month – but a victory over the table-topping Crusaders would be the boost the side need to push on and turn their season around.
Despite all that’s at stake, Hurricanes coach Jason Holland is confident that Love can get the job done.
But what exactly does he expect from the teenage pivot?
“I just want him to be Ruben Love,” Holland said ahead of Sunday’s match. “He’s just got to do what he does.
“I know he’s an absolute student of the game and will have done his homework, so all he has to do is go out there, make decisions and have a crack at whatever he sees.”
Love was named as an outside back when the Hurricanes confirmed their 2021 squad late last year but the 19-year-old spent time all across the backline for Palmerston North Boys.
Holland indicated last week that they still viewed Love as an outside back, first and foremost, but that a move closer to the action wasn’t out of the question.
“He’s a talented young kid who can play anywhere in the backline,” Holland said. “We see him at the moment as an outside back who can cover 10 so who knows where that will end up but at the moment that’s where we see him.”
Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea has offered teenage playmaker Ruben Love some words of advice ahead of the youngster's first start in Super Rugby against the Crusaders on Sunday. #HURvCRU #SuperRugbyAotearoa https://t.co/SIX3e9SFsH
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 10, 2021
Speaking on Friday, Holland suggested that just because he’s wearing the No 10 jersey this weekend, that’s not necessarily where his long term future lies.
“I don’t think he’s in any hurry to decide exactly where he needs to be, but he’s a really competent 10 and 15,” the coach said.
“We’ve known what a talent he is and he’s had time to get into the environment; now he gets the opportunity.
“His prep is like he’s a 15-year pro; he does all the right things during the week. He’s got energy, he’s got an excitement factor, he’s got pace and acceleration, he can step – all those things are exciting. He’s an attacking player and will be an attacking 10, but he’s also got the smarts to know when to get a bit of depth and when to kick and pass.
“He’s just a small cog, but I’m confident he’ll just slot in and do his job.”
With the likes of Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett in the backline, the playmaking duties won’t fall solely on Love’s shoulders.
Still, it’s a big ask of the teenager – but once which he’ll undoubtedly welcome with open arms.
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