Ben Smith has a fair idea how new All Black Shannon Frizell will be feeling. Smith was as much of a surprise selection in 2009 as Frizzell is in 2018 and the Highlanders captain struggled to believe he was good enough to be with the national team.

For three years, maybe even four, Smith's greatest impediment to being the player he now is was not fully believing in himself.

It was an internal battle for Smith to look around the All Blacks changing room and convince himself he was the same calibre of player as his teammates.

That's why Smith was in and out of the squad between 2009 and 2012 and only established himself as a regular starter in 2013.


If Frizell, who has only played three Super Rugby games to date, is feeling much the same way, it would be no surprise.

The 24-year-old is probably the biggest selection surprise of Steve Hansen's head coaching tenure and admitted that when the call came on Saturday night to inform him he was being selected, he initially thought the Highlanders team manager had mistakenly given him the phone.

Frizell couldn't quite take in what was happening which was perhaps to be expected given that he started the season with the modest hope of securing the odd game for the Highlanders in his first season with them.

Having started with that ambition, it is a big jump to find himself in the All Blacks and to understand that he did enough in that limited game time to convince the selectors he was worthy of a call-up.

All Blacks loose forward Shannon Frizell during the All Blacks training session at The Blues base, Alexandra Park, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
All Blacks loose forward Shannon Frizell during the All Blacks training session at The Blues base, Alexandra Park, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

It helped no end that he scored a stunning hat-trick against the Blues at Eden Park in a performance where he was able to show his explosive power, speed and appetite for destruction.

And that's the thing Smith hopes Frizell will understand quickly - that the selectors can make astute decisions based on limited viewing and they have a track record of being right more than they are wrong when it comes to elevating players who may not necessarily have spent hours showing what they have in Super Rugby.

Smith might well have told his teammate to not over think things and just trust that the selectors have done their job and know what they are doing.

"He's got awesome skills and a lot of natural ability and when he's had his chance, he's stood up," Smith said of Frizell.


"The [All Blacks] coaches mentioned to make sure we are learning and students of the game. He is a bit of a freak. He's got an amazing attacking skillset to know where people are in the space and we have seen that a few times."

If Smith's testimony isn't enough to help Frizell make sense of his new status, then perhaps Hansen can help enlighten the youngster.

The first thing the All Blacks coach likes about his new protege is his size. At 1.95m and 110kg, there is a big, athletic frame around which the All Blacks conditioning coaches can work and no doubt by this time next year they will have him at 115kg and quicker, more durable and fitter with it.

But ultimately it's Frizell's desire on the field that they like the most. When he has played for the Highlanders, he's made himself visible and high impact.

"We have noticed him all season really," says Hansen. 'He fits the mould of players that the All Blacks have used in the past. He's very assertive, he's got plenty of energy and he carries well. He's got the right intentions when he's got the ball and he's got the right intentions when he's not got the ball.

"And the reason why we picked him and not Akira [Ioane] is because his intentions without the ball are really strong. He's physical, he wants to make big tackles. He wants to put himself about the park and intimidate people in a positive way and that is what we have to grow in Akira.

"When Akira has ball in hand he's world class. But the rest of what we need him to do is in the learning process but that's okay because he's only 22. He's a young man and he'll get there."

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