The Warriors want to make sure their defence is right before unleashing the likes Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins on attack at the NRL Auckland Nines.
“Host” team the Warriors are putting the accent on defence as they target winning the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines.
Fewer players on the field and rule tweaks carry the promise of fast, open action at Eden Park on Saturday and Sunday.
The Warriors have plenty of attacking threat in their armoury, with the likes of mercurial half Shaun Johnson, new English recruit Sam Tomkins, blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell and speedster Glen Fisiiahi.
But their Nines coach Ricky Henry believes it’s what his players do without the ball that will be the key to success.
“Definitely defence is a priority and it probably will be across all the other teams as well,” he said.
“If you can defend well, you have a better chance of winning, so we’re doing a lot of defensive stuff and looking at structures.”
Henry, who is one of Warriors NRL coach Matthew Elliott’s assistants, was an interested observer of rugby union’s Wellington Sevens last weekend.
He has also talked to club icon Stacey Jones, who was part of New Zealand’s winning campaigns when the World Nines were held in 1996 and 1997.
While much in the game had changed since then, Henry said the fundamentals remained similar.
“You’ve still got big guys involved, you have to control the ball, you have to get the defence right, you have to make your tackles,” he said.
“Some of the special plays that Shaun and Sam can put on for us will be the difference.”
The Auckland Nines involves all 16 NRL clubs, who are split into four pools, with the top two from each making the quarter-finals.
On day one, the Warriors face Canberra and Manly, with 40-year-old club legend Steve Menzies making a return to the Sea Eagles ranks.
The Warriors complete their pool schedule against North Queensland on Sunday.
Henry said thee Warriors would go in with their eyes on the title.
“We have to earn the right to get to the finals,” he said.
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we’ve come to the competition to win it.”