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O'Donnell relishes Maori tour chance

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Sportal.co.nz     06 Nov 2012     Getty Images

Troubled with injuries after his initial impact, O'Donnell was part of the Chiefs Super Rugby-winning line-up this year, although not as much as he wanted, but he had applied the lessons of that campaign to good effect for the Ranfurly Shield-winning Waikato team in the ITM Cup to win selection in the Maori All Blacks.

"Being in the Chiefs' environment was exciting. The environment was more like a family really, everyone was on the same level. Everyone gelled as a team and that was what really helped the Chiefs this year and helped everyone in the team," he said.

Former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith made an impact on O'Donnell.

"When I first met him I was quite scared of him, he lets you know if you do something wrong but he was only there to help you. And as the year got on he was really good to me and helped me out with my defence and I took what we had done into ITM Cup so he was awesome for me I think," he said.

"My defence hadn't been too good over the last two years but he helped me grow and I want to grow more and more," he said.

It was his confidence that was boosted by the ITM Cup campaign and he was excited about the prospect in only his second season.

"I'm [now] just looking forward to this tour and for next year with the Highlanders," he said.

Given he didn't think he would be selected for the Maori tour, and having heard nothing about a Super Rugby contract, he was leaning towards returning to Sevens rugby a week ago.

But then he was advised he was in contention for the Maori All Blacks tour so that made him realise he could still have something of a career in the 15-man game.

"I was just blown away by making this team," he said.

Getting plenty of time on the left wing, and plenty of ball to play with would be his goal for the tour.

But developing his tactical appreciation of the game, especially in his kicking game, was something that he needed to address for the advancement of his career, he said.