Hurricanes captain Dane Coles hopes emotion won't get the better of him when he plays his first game since the Rugby World Cup final.
Coles will finally run out as skipper when the Hurricanes host the Western Force in Palmerston North on Friday, having missed the pre-season campaign with a hamstring niggle and a two loss-one win start to their Super Rugby campaign with a calf complaint.
Not a watcher by nature, the All Blacks hooker has found the past month excruciating.
Coles admitted he felt proud to play his first game as a captain at any level since he was a schoolboy but doesn't want the occasion to get to him.
Building a relationship with the referee would be an early challenge for a player renowned for off-the-ball skirmishes with opponents rather than negotiating with match officials.
Coles wasn't sure what his captaincy approach would be.
He wondered if he would follow the same loquacious path as his predecessor Conrad Smith.
"He was a pretty passionate man, he let the refs know about it," Coles said.
"Everyone's different so hopefully I don't let my emotions get the better of me."
Coles also reckoned his fitness would come under the microscope, nearly five months after receiving his World Cup winner's medal at Twickenham.
"I've been working pretty hard behind the scenes but there's nothing like your first game," he said.
Coles believed the Hurricanes had improved considerably since their embarrassing first-round loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.
Two more away games resulted in a narrow loss to the Highlanders and last week's tense win over the Blues.
Coles believed the fighting nature of the victory was invaluable for morale.
His absence did have a silver lining, with stand-in skipper TJ Perenara and experienced team-mates Victor Vito and Beauden Barrett forced to step into leadership roles, he said.
He had high regard for the Force, who boast the same 1-2 record.
The Western Australians thumped the Hurricanes 28-0 in a pre-season game in Gosford and boast some great players in a loose forward trio led by tough Wallabies flanker Matt Hodgson, Coles said.