Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Fiery Dane Coles plays on the edge

After two action-packed and often controversial rounds with Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore in which he stepped to, and occasionally over, the line, Dane Coles has turned his attention to Argentina captain Agustin Creevy, a talismanic player who could perhaps claim to be the All Blacks' closest challenger to the title of best hooker in the world.

Coles has so far been faultless in his lineout throwing over the two tests against Australia - the All Blacks have yet to lose one in the Rugby Championship - and his running game has also been exceptional.

The 29-year-old's pace and ability to beat a player with footwork is unique among tight forwards, and his spontaneous, impetuous instincts on the field are mirrored in his personality.

There is no doubting his toughness either, as evidenced by his recent deeds in playing for the Hurricanes despite a painful rib cartilage injury.

He plays close to the edge - a great strength but also a potential weakness - as he admitted this week.

His verbal and physical battles with Moore and others wearing green and gold were such that for the sake of further trans-tasman relations it's probably a good thing that the Pumas are the opposition at Waikato Stadium tonight rather than the Wallabies.

"I probably got a bit fired up, to be honest," Coles said of his attitude in the 29-9 victory over Moore's team in Wellington a fortnight ago. "I probably carried on a little bit too much. Mate, I play on the edge, but I always go out there to play footy."

That's a given, and it's also a given that Coles, who has played 41 tests, won't back down when push comes to shove against the Pumas.

"No, I won't back down and I'm pretty sure they won't back down either. They've got a pretty good hooker in Creevy. I'm looking forward to the battle against him, he's one of the best hookers in the world.

"We go out there to play," he added. "We don't go out there to bring niggle. They're a pretty good side so they'll just want to play, I think. I actually don't know. We're
going out there to play footy and I'm pretty sure they'll want to take the confidence they got out of [beating] South Africa and just want to play footy too.

"They might see it as a way to get into us, I'm not sure. We've probably learned a lesson from that Aussie test, to just get on with it a bit quicker. If they bring that we've just got to adapt."

Coles' impetuous nature on the field saw him yellow carded at Twickenham in 2014 when he lashed out at an apparent provocation and caught an English player with his boot, and he has long been seen by the All Blacks selectors as a player with special qualities who needs to be handled carefully. Dull that "edge" and you inhibit Coles' game.
Off the field and in front of the media, Coles is unfailingly honest, entertaining company.

He is quick with a good-natured put-down, the nifty returns not confined to his fast feet.

After Beauden Barrett, his Hurricanes' teammate, admitted to the media that he wasn't always an explosive, quick athlete, and in fact was a better long-distance runner at school, Coles was asked about Barrett's qualities' as a player and a person.

"He's had enough attention for the last couple of weeks hasn't he?" was Coles' tongue-in-cheek response, before he replied: "He's world class ... just this year, the way he's come on, especially in that June series and the way he led us at the Canes.

"He's a cool, calm, collected character and I suppose when you've got a guy in that sort of form playing outside you it gives you a lot of confidence. He plays what he sees and that's the best thing. He doesn't get into too much structure, he's got a good rugby brain on him. As a tight forward when you see a guy like him plugging the corners [with kicks] or taking the hole [when running], it's pretty reassuring.

"That's enough from me about him."

Another target lined up and knocked down - that's Coles all right.

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