By WYNNE GRAY
He has the best boards in the side, a couple of muttonchops which even sprout out from his scrumcap.
Andrew Hore also reckons he has the best work in the world when he gets back to the family farm near Ranfurly in central Otago, a career he wants to continue when his rugby days are done.
On Sunday morning, he has the premier hooking job for the All Blacks when he makes his test debut against England at Twickenham.
Not bad for a bloke forced to move from Otago to Taranaki after managing just 10 games in three seasons for the southerners. His way to the No 2 jersey was blocked by All Black hooker Anton Oliver and then his national understudy Tom Willis.
Hore joined the national rugby production line at under-16 level, secondary schools and under-21 but stalled against the strong Otago hooking depth in the NPC.
Those restricted chances forced his transfer and after touring with the All Blacks for the overseas Tri-Nations matches this year and Mark Hammett's absence, he goes into the All Black front row.
He used to be a flanker before he lost some pace and reckons if he is going to rumble, it may as well be right in the thick of the action.
The 24-year-old was out docking lambs on the family farm almost a fortnight ago while his parents watched the televised announcement of the touring side. Hore loves his footy but he also loves the land - a fact shown by his interests in dog trialing and reading New Zealand Farmer.
Older brother Charlie is also into the life, although has been taken away by stints with Otago and Canterbury as a first five-eighths.
"It is just a way of life, nothing beats it being out there with the elements and I look forward to being there fulltime when my rugby is over," he says.
"But I was relieved to make the squad too, it is great because there was a good chance and it also represents something for Taranaki and Ranfurly."
Hore lauds his fellow Taranaki forwards who helped promote him from amber and black to the single colour jersey.
"We've had excellent momentum and have been able to get into most teams up front this season."
He follows prop Gordon Slater, the last Taranaki man picked for the All Blacks.
Slater has been a generous tutor, he says. Someone who knows most of the front row tricks and passed on to his rake.
And provincial coach Colin Cooper loves the message Hore's selection brings. It shows there is an avenue for those who play outside the major NPC sides to make it into the All Blacks.
He says Hore's best attributes are consistent lineout delivery and ball-playing ability. At a stocky 105kg and 1.83m, his other main quality is defence - perhaps as a legacy of his loose forward days, where he was adept at pinching maul ball and winning turnovers.
Says Cooper: "He's top of the team."
First represented New Zealand at under-16 level in 1994 and had two years in the New Zealand Schools team and made the under-21s in 1999.
Made provincial debut for Otago in 1998 but 10 games in three seasons prompted a move to Taranaki.
His mother is a former New Zealand hockey international.
All Blacks test schedule/scoreboard
By WYNNE GRAY