Ward hopes for better weather

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Thursday, September 30, 2010    Getty Images

Ward has been moved from fullback to wing to allow Chay Raui, with whom he has swapped, to have a run in that position.

It is Ward's first game on the wing since 2004 but he was looking at the positional change to bring a bit more excitement to his game.

"It [the weather] hasn't helped with our confidence trying to spread the ball wide. Every week we go 'this is it we want to really attack and play some enterprising football' but the conditions have been so terrible every week it's like 'here we go again', so hopefully on Friday night we'll get some good condition.

"We really want to get some attack ball. Our defence has been really good over the last few weeks – since Canterbury we haven't let a try in so we're really going well there but now we've got to start putting points on the board," he said.

Ward has enjoyed getting back into the Auckland environment after three years playing in Paris but has noticed the greater emphasis on youth in the ITM Cup.

"There's a whole lot of young guys coming through now, 18, straight out of school. I remember when I left I was 27 and the oldest in the side but we still had a good age range of solid players in the 24-25 year age range but now the general ages would be 18-21.

"That's probably the biggest difference I've noted where the step is coming straight out of school into the NPC whereas before it was going through the club rugby ranks, playing your age group stuff and then probably having a crack two or three years out of school."

That change put more pressure on the coaches and senior players to harness the talent the young players brought from the raw state they were in to point them in the right direction, he said.

The skill factors hadn't changed and reflected the more professional approaches schools seemed to be taking with their teams with video analysis and academies.

"They're getting taught a lot earlier the specifics of being a professional athlete. If guys are identified early there is no reason why they can't put a whole lot of effort in at school to becoming a professional athlete," he said.