All Blacks star Anton Lienert-Brown has opened up on his mental health struggles and the conversation that changed his outlook on rugby and life.

Speaking on an episode of the A Few Good Men podcast, Lienert-Brown spoke out about the importance of mental health - a topic that has become more prevalent in rugby, especially after Liam Squire cited his mental health as one of his reasons for turning down a spot in the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup squad.

"I'm massively passionate about mental health, firstly because it's helped me. I've definitely had my battles over the years, but also because I want to help others. We saw the stat on suicide not too long ago," said Lienert-Brown.

"The mental side of it [rugby] is just as important; perhaps more. I remember at the point where I was my fittest, my strongest, my fastest, I was also my unhappiest. My skinnies [skinfold tests to measure body fat percentage] was the lowest. I was so obsessed with everything being the best, being perfect.

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"Now, I am not physically as fit but mentally I'm in a great place. Now I have a good balance between being able to enjoy a beer with mates and going out and running hard."

Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

Part of the reason why Lienert-Brown managed to get to that place was a conversation with All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, who helped the All Blacks midfielder separate the important things in life.

"When I first started in professional rugby, my whole life was about rugby. If I stuffed up or if I made a mistake, I couldn't chuck it out. I went home, I dwelled on it, I thought about it. It made me into a rut, even if I did something good, it wasn't good enough.

"About three years ago, I sat down with Bert [Enoka] and I let him know how I felt. He said, 'what you need to do is have Rugby Anton, you need to have Brother Anton, Friend Anton - you need to have these bridges'.

"Once you walk off the rugby field, you need to throw that out. If I'm with my family, that's my time to be with my family."

Lienert-Brown was last week named in the All Blacks' World Cup squad for the Japan tournament, and is looming as a likely starter against the Springboks in their opening game after some strong recent performances.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he put his solid play down to his experience in the All Blacks environment.

"I guess I've been around for a while now and have played a few tests, which I'm very lucky to have been able to do," Lienert-Brown said. "It's not your age [which is important], it's probably the years you spend in here. Every year you learn a lot and I've been really lucky to have been under Sonny [Bill Williams] and Crotts [Ryan Crotty], they're very wise men themselves."

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