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Elliot Dixon making most of early return

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Lynn McConnell     15 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Dixon tore a bicep in the latter stages of the Mitre 10 Cup. He had been expected to be ready for the first round of Super Rugby but was able to come back early and got three games of pre-season play, including the Brisbane Tens.

"The lungs were hissing, it was pretty hot out there but it was a pretty cool experience," he said.
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"The bicep feels good and the body is just getting used to the knocks of rugby and the big collisions and our last hit out against the Crusaders at Waimumu is going to be a pretty cool dress rehearsal for the Blues the next week."

A sidelight to his season would be enjoying his last times playing alongside Lima Sopoaga before he heads overseas. The pair started out at the Highlanders in the same season eight years ago and had grown together, each becoming All Blacks.

It was a chance to have some fun while playing and not worrying about the things he couldn't control, which had been an issue he had during the 2017 season.

Dixon is off contract at the end of the Super Rugby season but said his first desire was to stay in New Zealand however, he would have to wait and see what might transpire.

"We've been lucky enough to keep the core of boys and most of the starters. We've lost a few of the guys who provide bench impact and stuff like that, Gareth Evans and those kind of boys, but the 10 new fellows who have come across, they've had a really good pre-season and I think they're rearing to go just to get a taste of Super Rugby," he said.

During the pre-season the 'compete to win' mindset had been developed and the new players were keen to give anything a go and push for starting spots.

New coach Aaron Mauger had already demonstrated he was passionate about rugby.

"You can see that when he talks and he really enjoys rugby. He's got more of a Tony Brown approach to the game where he's wanting to really play, and at speed and I think there's been a few tweaks of our game plan but we haven't totally changed it.

"He's really stamped his mark, and he's a really process driven coach which is good for us because if you tick off what you need during the week hopefully you'll get the performance you want on the Saturday," he said.