Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Parsons playing the house down - Kirwan

James Parsons is determined to wear the No 2 jersey for as long as possible. Photo / Getty Images
James Parsons is determined to wear the No 2 jersey for as long as possible. Photo / Getty Images

Blues hooker James Parsons knows all about waiting patiently, which is part of the reason why he makes no apologies for keeping crowd favourite and All Black Keven Mealamu on the reserves bench.

Parsons acknowledges he had a head start over Mealamu because of the veteran's late start to the season. But while Mealamu has returned physically and mentally refreshed after his break, he hasn't been able to dislodge the 26-year-old Parsons, who is in the form of his life - coach John Kirwan admitting he is "playing the house down".

After the disappointment of last season when he worked his way into a starting spot, only to have to drop out when Mealamu returned from injury because of wider training group regulations, Parsons is determined to wear the No2 jersey for as long as possible.

It's a fitting reward for a player who has turned down many overseas offers, including from the Western Force and Rebels in Melbourne.

"I've had to fight for my spot and I think that makes me a better player," Parsons said. "I approach every game with so much excitement and enthusiasm because I have had to wait a long time. I certainly don't take it for granted and I think that's my edge... I really do think that's made me a better player than if I had got in at a young age.

"I could have gone overseas, I've had many offers from overseas but I've wanted to stay. I've wanted to play for the Blues and I've wanted to play in New Zealand. Now I'm cherishing every minute I get out on the field."

Parsons has been a minor sensation for the Blues. He is one of the form hookers in the country, thanks in part to the way the Blues are playing - an all-action, direct game. He has scored two tries in his six starts - the most recent in the victory over the Hurricanes at Eden Park after which he received stick from his teammates, and assistant coach Sir Graham Henry, for his flapping arms celebration.

"I got a hell of a lot of grief, even from Ted [Henry]. It was just a natural thing. I'm not one to celebrate tries and nor am I one to score many. It just happened, I was pretty excited and the crowd was roaring at the time. It was just one of those things."

In looking ahead to tonight's match against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, the North Harbour captain, who has a marketing and finance degree from Massey University, said the return from injury of 27-year-old Reds skipper James Horwill had made a huge difference to the Queenslanders.

Horwill's influence can be overshadowed by the flashiness of Will Genia and Quade Cooper but it was plain to see in the Reds' win over the Chiefs and draw against the Brumbies.

"His leadership is massive," Parsons said of Horwill. "He's a guy they all look up to. I know talking to Mike Harris and James Hanson, they see him as a father figure. He leads by example with his physicality - he walks the walk."

As for keeping a "legend" in Mealamu benched, Parsons said: "We've got good competition and we're fighting for a spot. It's good for the team. I'm sure every hooker wants to start."

• Steven Luatua, Francis Saili and Charles Piutau have extended their contracts with the Blues until after the 2015 World Cup.

Reds v Blues
Brisbane, tonight, 9.40pm

Reds: Jono Lance, Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, James Horwill (c), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Ben Daley
Reserves: James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Ed O'Donoghue, Jarrad Butler, Ben Lucas, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Dom Shipperley.

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Jackson Willison, Albert Nikoro, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams, Culum Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, James Parsons, Tom McCartney
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ronald Raaymakers, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Francis Saili.

- APNZ

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