All Blacks: Liam Squire an intriguing mix of athleticism and confrontation

By Gregor Paul in Chicago

Liam Squire's eyes light up and a smile spreads across his face when he thinks about whether it is the physical nature of test football that excites him most.

He knows it is and he presumably knows too that it's his abrasive nature and love of contact that has largely been responsible for getting him this far.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has seen plenty of remarkable athletes in his time. He's seen all sorts of magnificent specimens aspire to be a test loose forward and so few actually make it.

The reason most don't quite make the cut is that they don't have the mentality to impose themselves. Test football has evolved over the years but not so much as that it has lost the essence of itself - it remains a game of impacts and collisions and only the hardest men can thrive.

Squire is proving himself to be an intriguing mix of athleticism and confrontation. He's shown impressive acceleration when he's come off the bench in recent tests and a clarity about what he's there to do.

At full tilt, he's quite a sight but it's his ability to pull off dominant tackles that has pushed him into the No 6 jersey for this weekend's clash with Ireland.

He was one of the best dominant tacklers in Super Rugby and he's shown that same ability in test football. He seems to be different to many of his peers in that he has that mental toughness and love of the confrontation that is a pre-requisite of the role.

"It gets you excited to get into that physical battle," he says. "I don't know...it is something I have in my game and I keep working on it. If you don't bring the right attitude then you are going to be playing on the back foot. You have got to meet the challenge.

"When you have three older brothers you have got to stand up for yourself. Growing up on the farm as the youngest it was pretty tough but I loved it."

Squire has adapted impressively quickly to the pace and intensity of test rugby and he's been able to do that by realising early that one of the keys to success at this level is attention to detail.

He's had his eyes opened to how prepared he has to be to perform. At the start of the international season his Highlanders teammate Elliot Dixon was probably ahead of him - viewed internally as the most likely heir apparent to Jerome Kaino.

Squire has changed that pecking order in the last few months but he's not ready yet to say he's a specialist blindside and nor are the selectors.

"I am pretty open minded about playing six and eight," he says. "They are both familiar roles. I probably get a bit more involved in attack at No 8 but they are pretty similar."

- NZ Herald

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