Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fekitoa and Tuipolotu bring exciting qualities to All Blacks

New All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Patrick Tuipolotu are determined theirs will not be a short-term stay in the side after being named in the squad to prepare for the three-Test series against England starting on Saturday at Eden Park.

Both are Auckland developed players but Fekitoa has made his mark with the Highlanders in Super Rugby while Tuipolotu has become the first member of the 2013 New Zealand Junior World Championship team to make the Test stage.

Fekitoa said missing out on the Blues had been a significant motivation for him when he was picked up by the Highlanders and he went into the Super Rugby campaign determined to prove what he was capable of.

He didn't expect to move as far quite so quickly but was delighted to have the chance to experience the All Blacks environment.

Fekitoa said he had been able to show his capabilities so emphatically as a result of the belief of the Highlanders' coaching group.

"They never told me not to do anything. They just want to make sure I develop and that I am happy and they have given me every opportunity to make sure I perform," he said.

Fekitoa has set his sights high and said he had always wanted to be the best no matter what team he was in.

"Whether I was playing Sevens in Sri Lanka or Sevens in Tonga, I always wanted to beat people and I just want to get into this team and learn as much as I can from the senior guys.

"I just want to learn, develop my game and test myself at this level to see if I am good enough," he said.

His first taste of the All Blacks environment was during the two pre-season training camps in May and he noticed an immediate benefit.

"It got my timing up and when I got back to the Highlanders I could see things clearer and I could see things a bit easier and I felt a little bit better than where I was before the camps," he said.

He also felt his exposure to the requirements of top level player had shown that he was not too far away from reaching that standard and it had been a good start for him.

Tuipolotu was still getting used to how quickly events had moved for him in the game.

"It's way ahead of where I thought I would be. I didn't think I would get game time for the Blues at the start of the year, but I am happy to be where I am now and I'll take my opportunities as they come," he said.

In the Blues environment he felt coach Sir John Kirwan had helped him express himself.

"I like to run with the ball, I like to be in open space. JK [Kirwan] has pretty much let me do that in terms of our game plans back at the Blues and that has allowed the coaches to see what I can do," he said.

And being named in Sunday's squad had shown the benefits of that policy for him.

Getting into the camp environment in May with the All Blacks had shown him that talent wasn't enough to allow you to progress. It was all about hard work.

"Coming into the camp you see how the Richie McCaws and Keven Mealamus, and all those guys, do stuff and I sort of try to take a page out of their book to try and improve yourself to be like them," he said.

Now that he has made the step to international level he wanted game time to show that he could stay in the team. He didn't want to be a one-time All Black he wants to go far but with the realisation that he still has a long way to go.

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