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Return of travel factor forces Super Rugby Trans-Tasman change-up

By Tom Vinicombe

Trending on RugbyPass

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While the travel involved in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman pales in comparison to what teams had to undertake in the old Super Rugby competition, it’s still a step up from the Aotearoa and AU tournaments.

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That’s especially true for the teams that have to travel to and from Perth where the Western Force are based.

It takes the better part of eight hours to fly from Auckland to Perth – something which the Chiefs had to endure ahead of last weekend’s narrow win over the Force.

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They returned to New Zealand this week, arriving in the early hours of Monday morning.

While captain Brad Weber isn’t making any excuses ahead of Saturday night’s battle with the Brumbies in Hamilton, he has acknowledged that it was a bit of a shock to the system for the team.

“It might have been a bit of an issue on Monday and Tuesday because we had a five-hour flight and got in at about 6am on Monday,” he said at Friday’s captain’s run. “So jeez, Monday was a bit of a struggle, just catching up on a bit of sleep.”

The team has recovered since, however, and is now preparing to play the Super Rugby AU finalists – who they’ve not scored a win over since 2018.

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Coach Clayton McMillan made a handful of changes to the team ahead of last week’s fixture and has also mixed things up for Saturday, bringing Sione Mafileo, Liam Messam and Bailyn Sullivan into the starting lineup.

That’s something that will likely become the norm for all the Trans-Tasman teams due to the increased travel factor.

“Last week’s training week looked significantly different to any other week we’ve had this year,” McMillan said following the naming of the side to take on the Brumbies. “Having said that, I thought the guys responded really well.

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“We got loose and we ultimately gave penalties away, yellow cards, and we allowed the Force to stay in the game but from an energy point of view, I think we got that right.

“We definitely have looked at the next four weeks different to the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition where you know things are going to be brutal but you don’t have to deal with the travel demands and it doesn’t really impact on your training week whereas this is different. We know we’ve got an arduous four weeks ahead of us but we don’t want to make excuses for anything and you’ve just got to embrace it, make the most of it and get out and play.

The Force remain in Perth this weekend and will host the Highlanders on Friday night before heading on a three-week tour of New Zealand to play the Hurricanes, Crusaders and Blues.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, will return to New Zealand to host the Rebels.

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:

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Return of travel factor forces Super Rugby Trans-Tasman change-up

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