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
"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
"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.