It has been a while since veteran All Blacks hooker Dane Coles played in international rugby, but the 34-year-old is more excited than ever to be back on the pitch in testing.
Coles was one of five All Blacks – including captain Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Shannon Frizell and uncapped lock Josh Lord – who embarked on a trip to Washington DC on Thursday ahead of the team’s clash against the USA Eagles on next weekend.
The player quintet did not play for the All Blacks for an extended period of time for a variety of reasons, or, in Lord’s case, did not play for the All Blacks at all.
Instead, while the All Blacks have won the Rugby Championship title in Australia over the past month and a half, the aforementioned five players have stayed in New Zealand, where they re-educated, trained and played at different game levels.
For Coles, the reason he didn’t cross the divide with Ian Foster’s squad – who are still based on the Sunshine Coast and will liaise with the group of players who recently left for the US capital on Sunday – was due to an injury. .
The 76-test rake was supposed to play on the bench in New Zealand’s first Bledisloe Cup victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park in August, but was pulled at the last minute due to a calf injury that has been troublesome in recent years.
Coles did not take part in the following week’s victory over Australia in Auckland, and he was later left out of the All Blacks touring squad to recover and get back into top form ahead of the year-end tour .
This means that, until Wellington’s 47-minute appearance against Canterbury in the AFN last week, Coles had not played rugby of any kind since the All Blacks beat Fiji 60-13 in Hamilton in July.
Hungry for rugby testing for three months, Coles is understandably delighted to get back into the mix ahead of New Zealand’s five test tour of the northern hemisphere.
âPretty pumped up, to be fair,â he told reporters on Thursday when asked how he felt back in the All Blacks environment.
âReally excited to join the guys. I’ve watched football enough, but some of us are pretty excited and hopefully can bring some energy to the squad.
“Happy to go to Washington and get stuck in training and obviously give us a chance to play, so I can’t wait.”
– RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 15, 2021
Given his extended stint without action, Coles must be a favorite to be included in the match day squad to face the United States at FedEx Field next Sunday morning (NZT).
This match is expected to end with a heavy victory in favor of the All Blacks, especially as the United States lost to Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier last weekend and suffered a 74-6 loss to New Zealand the last time they met. in Chicago seven years ago.
However, despite the class divide between the two teams, the test should provide Coles, Cane, Whitelock, Frizell and Lord with a good platform to fit into the All Blacks’ setup and test rugby ahead of more difficult matches. on the tour. .
These include matches against Wales in Cardiff, Italy in Rome, Ireland in Dublin and France in Paris, all of which come in consecutive weeks after the United States clash.
This will be the first time the All Blacks have faced teams from the Six Nations since winning the 2019 World Cup bronze final over Wales in Tokyo, and Coles said a comeback against European sides adds to the element of excitement surrounding the tour.
âI saw the Six Nations a bit and also watched the British and Irish Lions tour a bit. It’s a bit of a stranger, to be fair, not to have played them for a while, âhe said.
âOnce we’re there we’ll see a little bit of streak and stuff like that, but I think it’s also a real excitement, playing teams that we haven’t played in a few years and being in. different countries, although it is a bit restricted.
“But, especially for me and the guys who haven’t played, it will be great excitement and playing different teams.”
Whether Coles will feature in those tests remains to be seen, but he knows he has a challenge to overcome to become New Zealand’s top hooker again following the emergence of youngsters Samisoni Taukei’aho and Asafo Aumua.
After watching the entire rugby championship from the comfort of his own home, Coles was forced to watch as the duo pressured incumbent Codie Taylor for starting honors in the No.2 shirt.
– RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 14, 2021
Back in the All Blacks camp, Coles is eager to learn from his juniors as he finally has the chance to reassert himself as the top dog in the middle of the front row.
“Nah, fucking Soni [Taukeiâaho] and Saf [Aumua] have cemented themselves as All Blacks, âColes said when asked if he had received any messages from the youngsters for advice from afar.
âIt’s great to see, even though I’m on the couch and can’t do anything, but it’s good for All Black rugby and New Zealand rugby to see a few young hookers come over and put the pressure on Codie, who’s taken it to another level too, so no texting.
âThe new generation knows everything, so I’ll give advice when I can, but we have a good relationship with the prostitutes and I’m going to get their brains out and do them, once in the environment, see where I can get down to. day and be helped.
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
RugbyPass + subscription
Join RugbyPass + now and join the conversation with all new comments!