Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Bonny bundle of skills on wing

Cory Jane will start his 40th test for the All Blacks against Scotland in Edinburgh on Monday. Photo / Getty Images
Cory Jane will start his 40th test for the All Blacks against Scotland in Edinburgh on Monday. Photo / Getty Images

For those not built for the collision course of rugby, Cory Jane is always a refreshing change of appearance.

For those who notice these things, he comes up with regular hairstyle changes and is a fervent fan of Twitter and engaging with his followers on social media.

He is a well-constructed and wiry man but nothing like the massive torsos of his fellow wings Hosea Gear and Julian Savea.

Jane relies more on his dancing feet, great balance and an array of kick, pass, run skills to make his plays.

His instincts are strong, he knows when to hold the width on the flank or take a punt and go searching for some mileage in the park's middle channels.

It's a package which has worked so strongly he will start his 40th test against Scotland on Monday.

Not bad for a bloke who had carved out most of his rugby career as a fullback and was keen to continue in that role. But even he could see roadblocks there with Mils Muliaina then Israel Dagg.

Besides, the All Black selectors wanted wings whose skills allowed them to work as extra fullbacks, men with the vision, covering skills and sting to flourish on the flanks.

Jane and to an extent Richard Kahui, when fit, have delivered that prototype. They are technically solid under the high ball and opposition five-eighths know their attacking kicks must be spot on with ample chasers, to make any headway.

He is also sharp enough on defence and his final try against Argentina when he defused an attack and scampered 50m to the line was a great example.

Jane's sporting computer is well engaged. He scans the paddock and imagines several plays ahead as he gets his hyperactive body ready to react. Occasionally he overdoes it, like the high-jinks during the World Cup pool play which drew the ire of the coaching staff and fellow players.

He is always in motion and does not strike you as a person who would be comfortable behind a chessboard.

But give him rugby moves to consider and he is all go.

Jane believes Scotland will vary their style at Murrayfield, he thinks they will mix the kicking approach and ball in hand forays, but points out the weather may yet have a say in that.

"We want to play with that ball, that's our style and by the looks of things the boys up here want to do the same thing," he said.

He had looked up his Scots rival Tim Visser on YouTube and noted his physique was more like Savea's.

"He's a big boy, it's getting ridiculous. He is new in international rugby and scored a lot of tries on the YouTube I saw so it will be interesting."

The Springboks and Pumas did hammer Jane with their punts but he had worked hard on his technique to claim those and where possible, return them with interest.

"The other wings don't seem to get any put on them, I don't know why that is. It's always me but that's all good and as a wing you have to be able to catch the ball."

Perhaps it was the natural angle for a right footed five-eighths to kick more to his flank but he wondered why he seemed to have been inspected more than his teammates this season.

"I think most wings around the world are starting to realise we have to be able to catch these things."

Playing wing for the All Blacks was great because he only had to concentrate on that position and learn the craft and understand his game.

"It is what it is and I am enjoying it. I don't have to run around as a fullback and I get to save my legs because I'm not as young as I look."

- NZ Herald

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