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Francis: 'Blues have made real strides'

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The second year Blues player who came into the side after strong showings for Counties Manukau played most often last year at second five-eighths outside Ihaia West.

And while he admits the early absence of big-name signings like Sonny Bill Williams will probably see him considered more often at second five-eighths initially, his goal is still on the first five-eighths role.

"I've always played at 10, I've always believed I'm a 10 but that's not to say I dislike 12. I really enjoyed my time at 12 last season and it looks like I might get a bit of a crack to start with but at the end of the day I am a 10 and that's where my passion lies," he said.

Francis said he thought the Blues had made 'some real strides' from where they were last year.

"I think if you look back from an internal point of view how far along we are as a playing group, and particularly as a coaching staff, we're a year wiser and the things we want to put in play are a year down the line, so we feel like we're in a good space," he said.

There was a familiar feel to the group although some big names had joined the squad this year.

"We feel like we're heading in the right direction so we're really looking forward to Friday [pre-season game with the Chiefs]," he said.

They would be looking to take momentum from the way they finished Super Rugby last year.

"But we did sit at the bottom of the New Zealand franchises and finished 11th so we are aware of the realities as well so we'll take what we can but we're open to the truth and the truth is we need to get better," he said.

The changed emphasis in tackling and eliminating high tackles would be important.

"The majority of the time I think tackles are good, I think it's just the harshness of the penalty if one's come off a bit worse than expected. It's not as if we're going out to hit boys high at all.

"I think there will be a little bit of adjustment to start with but I'm sure it will sort itself out," he said.

Now that the season was getting closer to the week on week game play there was a lot of excitement among the side but there was also a lot of motivation to do better.

"We're very internally focused on what we're trying to do. We believe what we're doing is good and will lead us to where we want to be and ultimately there has to be a result," he said.

Francis said he was feeling good with his preparation and was keen to get on the starting XV sheet and if that was wearing No.10 then he would be especially satisfied.