Rugby: Coming of age for Coles

By Gregor Paul

Throughout last year Coles never quite left anyone feeling overly comfortable. Photo / NZ Herald
Throughout last year Coles never quite left anyone feeling overly comfortable. Photo / NZ Herald

Given he had 15 test caps, Dane Coles can't really be called the find of the series, yet it felt like he was.

It would be a gross misrepresentation of his contribution in the last three weeks to say he didn't put a foot wrong. That implies he hid himself away when he did anything but.

He nailed his lineout throwing. Really, really nailed it — not one off the mark. The scrum looked better, tighter and more dynamic when he was in it and he clobbered a few English ball carriers.

Just ask big Joe Launchbury because he'll remember having been picked up and deposited on his bum by Coles at Eden Park.

It was a coming-of-age series for Coles because not everyone shared the All Black coaches' faith that he was the right man to promote as the successor to Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore.

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Throughout last year Coles never quite left anyone feeling overly comfortable. There were plenty of rollicking great chunks of gristle in the middle rows of other scrums — Bismark Du Plessis, Dylan Hartley, Tatafu Polota-Nau — and then the not-so-substantial Coles.

He had the unfortunate look of a boy who'd taken a wrong turn and found his way into test football to be told ... "seeing as you are here ..."

There is no need to feel like that now. Angry old England said boo to him and he didn't flinch. Coles had presence in all the places he needed it. It was Coles, and not Hartley, who looked to be the coming force in test football, which left the former in a relative state of contentment.

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"I think I am just enjoying it a lot more to be honest," says Coles. "I learned a lot from last year playing in some high pressure situations and getting the chance to start in all the games in this series. I really enjoyed it. Comfortable is not quite the right word ... but I am enjoying it.

"I think after every game we have definitely improved. We respect their tight five but our set piece was bloody good and the backs were able to score some good tries so you do [as a tight five] take some satisfaction out of that when you give the backs top quality ball."

- NZ Herald

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