Rugby Championship

Coles relishing return in 50th Test

2017-08-25 10:57
Dane Coles (Getty)

Sydney - All Blacks hooker Dane Coles will put a season of frustration behind him when running onto Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to play Australia on Saturday. 

Denied a place in the prestigious British and Irish Lions Series due to concussion issues that hampered his Super Rugby campaign, Coles suffered a setback when another knock saw the All Blacks selectors opt to rest him from last week's Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies in Sydney. 

As a result it was no surprise Coles said it would be a special feeling to run out against Australia after all he had been through this year. The fact it was his 50th appearance added to the occasion.

"It's like my first Test all over again," he told the All Blacks' official website. 

Coles said he was in a good frame of mind after the time off and he had learnt some valuable lessons about how to handle himself and about the concussion protocols during that time.

He said he hadn't played alongside replacement tighthead prop Nepo Laulala before but he had been 'run over by him a few times'. But with Owen Franks borderline for selection they had been working well during the week. 

"He's a pretty powerful player having seen him play for the Chiefs and it will be awesome to lock down with him," added Coles. 

Hurricanes team-mate and flyhalf Beauden Barrett said it had been tough watching Coles endure his recovery time during the season. 

"You could see that Dane wasn't himself for most of that Hurricanes' season but as the last couple of months have gone on he's got back to playing footy and he's back to himself," he said.

"It's a funny one concussion and it can happen to anyone at any time. I've got a brother who's going through it still." 

Having him back in the side is exciting for the All Blacks, Coles was on-edge and it was like having an extra back on the field when he played. 

"Dane is known for his physicality, and that edge out on the field, his experience, and it's great to have that experience back. It has been missed - his leadership and presence - but Codie [Taylor] has been playing some very good footy as well so we've been pretty blessed to have the depth we have in this team," added Barrett. 

Coles said he had been impressed with the way Taylor had taken his chance with two hands, and being a fellow Horowhenua original that made it all the better. 

"In my eyes he was probably one of the best players in that Lions series and the Bledisloe Cup Test," he said. 

"There were times when I thought it was going to be hard to get back but he's worked really hard to get where he is and his form for the Crusaders has been awesome and he's taken that into the All Blacks. It just creates competitiveness among us for the hookers in this group." 

Coles said it wasn't so much a case of getting his jersey back, rather than being given the opportunity this week and if he didn't perform there was every chance Taylor would be given another start. 

"There's a lot of emotion after all that I've been through but I'm not getting too far ahead of myself, I just want to go out and perform and do some of the work Codie's done and keep chipping away and hopefully earn another week in the jersey," he added. 

Barrett said he was expecting a more physical approach from Australia in Dunedin, especially early in the game. 

"It won't be what we got last Saturday in Sydney, they'll come out firing and want to start well so we can't expect it to be the same," he said.

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