Super Rugby
English lock Matt Symons impressing Chiefs coaches
ESPN Staff
January 9, 2014
Matt Symons runs the ball for High School Old Boys, High School Old Boys v Marist Albion, Hagley Park, Canterbury, June 16, 2012
Matt Symons is making a big impression in Hamilton © Getty Images

Matt Symons has impressed the Chiefs coaching staff since joining the back-to-back Super Rugby champions rather than the Crusaders from ITM Cup winners Canterbury, the 24-year-old English-born lock adding to the competition to replace departed captain Craig Clarke.

"Matt Symons really impressed us before Christmas," head coach Dave Rennie told Fairfax Media in New Zealand. "He set a PB and broke the Chiefs' record for the yo-yo so he's a good athlete. And then you've got Mike Fitzgerald, who's obviously been with us for a couple of years, is incredibly reliable, and has gone bloody well for us.

"We also see Ross Filipo now more as a lock, and he gives you that experience we lost with Craig [leaving]. And even Kane Thompson when he gets back from Japan may well play eight, but may also play lock so we've got a couple of very experienced lineout specialists there so it's great competition to go with Brodie Retallick."

Symons impressed for Canterbury in his first season at ITM Cup level after moving from English second-division club Esher, and the Chiefs moved for him as they had two gaps to fill at lock after losing co-captain Craig Clarke to Connacht and Romana Graham to Exeter Chiefs.

Fitzgerald, the third-year Chiefs player ostensibly the first choice to replace Clarke in the run-on side, having stepped in for the captain in 2013, says Symons "smashes that fitness stuff and he's a big boy, while there are the old heads like Ross Filipo, who has been there before and has got quite a bit of experience, so obviously he's a good option to be in there".

Fitzgerald hopes, however, that he rather than his team-mates partners Retallick in the second-row this season even if he recognises "it's obviously going to be a big battle for that spot with Brodie".

"Last season I got a lot more game time and there was a period there where Weka [Clarke] was injured for a bit and I think I played about five games in a row and went pretty well there so, hopefully, I can continue that on and step up another level," Fitzgerald told Fairfax.

"I need to be a big presence like Weka was, hitting rucks etc, and hopefully I can get his spot."

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