Rugby: Charles welcomes chance to escape from 'sympathy'

By Darren Walton

Wallabies hooker Nathan Charles says the Eden Park battleground provides the perfect escape from the "stigma" and "sympathy" that comes with suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Tired of the plaudits he receives for breaking into the test side despite his life-threatening condition, Charles craves recognition instead for merely becoming a Wallaby.

"There'll always be a stigma attached, it's been pretty well documented," the 25-year-old said ahead of Saturday's second Bledisloe Cup test in Auckland. "I don't like sympathy and sometimes I feel like people say, 'Jeez, he's done well given where he's come from,' rather than, 'He's done well because the Wallabies are a hard team to crack into.'

" ... there's a lot more to this than just taking a few pills."

Taking on the might of the All Blacks at their Eden Park fortress is more a sanctuary for the three-test rookie.

"The opposition never give me any sympathy," he said. "There's levels of respect like that I have with Keven Mealamu. I think he's a real gentleman of the game but, once I'm on the pitch, he's not going to give me an inch."

Charles broke into the Wallabies' starting side following knee injuries to regular rakes Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau. He missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury of his own before catching the attention of national selectors with a fine 2014 Super Rugby campaign for the Western Force.

"There were some dark times but I was lucky I had some great support around me," Charles said. "Definitely six months ago I didn't see this. It was a goal but after the two weeks here, and the experience of the French series, I've started feeling a bit more comfortable in camp.

"I'm aligning myself with the culture and the patterns of play and the knowledge and just how everything works.

"I'm not here to just keep the seat warm. I've got an opportunity and I want to take it. I want to run with it and keep it."

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