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Highlanders put faith in Banks

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Thursday, March 21, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Banks has been preferred at first five-eighths against the Blues ahead of Josh Ioane and Bryn Gatland and said, "I've been coached by Rangi [MacDonald] most of my career and he's had a massive influence on me as a player and I know how he coaches.

"He's a guy who gives a licence to the players and lets them drive their game and gives them confidence to go out there and play their game and play whatever pictures they see. He'll have them firing this week and obviously they're a big beast across the park," he said.

Being elevated to a starting role was a surprise for Banks who said when he returned from Japan he was looking to be a mentor to Ioane and Gatland. At the same time he admitted that having a crack at driving the Highlanders around the part again was something he wanted to do.

"So to get a chance again up at Eden Park is pretty exciting and I'm definitely looking forward to it," he said.

"My role is to keep the boys in the right part of the field. Just to get the ball into the guys' hands – our outside backs and the midfield. Just keep our forwards going forward. My job is normally pretty easy, as long as I nail my role and normally the team will take over from there.

It would continue to be an advantage playing outside All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith. He took a lot of the heat off both Banks and the team.

"He has got a big mouth – some people love it and some people hate it.

"But personally it is awesome for me and awesome for the team. He directs the forwards and I direct the backs and hopefully it gels together at the end of the game and has gone well for the team."

There's the added advantage to be had from Smith's speed of delivery of the ball.

"It just gives that split second more with the ball. And that split second with the defence being quite dominant in the games, gives me some more time with the ball. As a 10 it does make a big difference – a massive difference with time on the ball," he said.

"Highlanders rugby is all about speed and getting the ball to width so that's obviously a key focus for us when you've got guys like Waisake [Naholo], Bender [Ben Smith] and Tevita [Li] and our midfield we want to get the ball through their hands as much as possible. We haven't scored many tries through the width and that's where we want to score them.

"When you've got threats like that you want to get them the ball. Hopefully we can do that this week," he said.