It's been a huge season for new All Black lock Brodie Retallick and yesterday he came to grips with his first media scrum.
The 21-year-old has been shielded from too much attention in his first year of test rugby, but yesterday he got in some practice for what lies across the ditch on Saturday from the Wallabies.
Retallick started strongly. The opening inquiry was if he was a John Eales fan.
"No, I was more a Chris Jack fan," Retallick answered.
Then off we went, accompanying him on a season's blur from being picked for the Chiefs, making the All Blacks and his test debut to winning the Super 15 title.
"It's been a hell of a ride so far and I just hope to keep it going for the next month or so," he said.
He expected the Wallabies would offer a much faster style and more physical approach than the Irish did in their June visit.
Playing in Sydney would be a first for Retallick who, with Luke Romano, is vying to partner Sam Whitelock in the second row for Saturday's start to the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series.
He planned to keep his routines similar to the ones which have brought him such dividends in his debut year of top-flight rugby.
If he had been told six months ago he would be playing the Wallabies in the opening test, Retallick admitted he might have looked doubtful.
"I think I have come down to earth after the final and I'm just looking at preparing for the weekend and concentrating on that," Retallick said.
Finding the right balance in preparation had been his greatest learning curve as he has surged into the All Blacks in the absence of the departed Brad Thorn and injured Ali Williams and Anthony Boric.
"It is a challenge in different weeks as some games are more physical than others and you have got to get your recovery right each week.
"The Aussies like to play a quick game and this will be a step up from what we had in the June series. With [Will] Genia sniping around the rucks it will definitely be a lot quicker than we are used to."
The media attention in the build-up to the Bledisloe Cup was a bit daunting but the attention given to the Chiefs this season had been very useful in preparing him for the weeks ahead, Retallick said. He would rather not have to answer questions and do interviews after training but he accepted those duties as part of his job.
Another looking to continue his duties this weekend is Victor Vito, who is embroiled in a blindside flanker battle with Adam Thomson and Liam Messam.
Vito started against Ireland but injured his knee and the others then played a test each.
The two All Blacks were very competitive and Vito felt each was training hard and trying to convince the coaches they were the right man for the No6 jersey.
Next to the World Cup, the Bledisloe Cup is a huge occasion and this weekend would be a stirring way to get back into international rugby.
That trophy spurred the All Blacks on each season. They might hold the trophy, but that has never been any sort of guarantee of success when the transtasman rivals meet.
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