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Canterbury usher new blood into side

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/08/2016

Canterbury coach Scott Robertson says his side will embrace the challenge of playing for its eighth provincial rugby title in nine years.

The Christchurch-based side inched past Auckland 25-23 to win the 2015 provincial rugby crown, and starts the 2016 season as strong favourites.

Robertson, who will coach the Crusaders in Super Rugby next season, said the club's heavy off-season squad turnover would make retaining the cup more difficult.

Fourteen players were promoted to the Canterbury squad from club rugby or the youth academy for the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup, which begins on August 18.

"We get a lot of young guys coming in with energy and they want to fill in that (gap), and they energise the older guys so we're lucky," Robertson said.

Canterbury have promoted backline utility and All Blacks under-20 Jordie Barrett, brother of All Blacks first-five Beauden, into their side for the 2016 season.

Robertson said the teen, who has just finished his club rugby season with Lincoln University, could be a future star.

He would also be monitoring Barrett closely when he takes up the reins for the Crusaders in 2017.

"We know how exciting the Barrett family is, so to have him in our group is immense," Robertson said.

"He's just someone with so much potential and we're just hoping we can help develop him."

Colin Cooper, coach of Barrett's hometown club of Taranaki, said he was disappointed to see the 19-year-old turn out for another side.

"He plays a lot more positions than Beauden - 10, 12, centre, fullback," Cooper said.

"He's exciting, young Jordie."

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