Time the best measure for emerging All Blacks

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Lynn McConnell     20 Oct 2017     Getty Images

They were speaking ahead of Saturday's third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Brisbane where both will start.
Sopoaga said he didn't think he could articulate how much it meant to him to be making the start but he was excited about the opportunity.

While he had missed a chance to start in Buenos Aires against Argentina as a result of staying home for the birth of his daughter, he said he would have missed three or four games to have gone through that experience because it was so special.

His 55-minutes in Cape Town a fortnight ago had built on his memorable debut at Ellis Park in the 27-20 victory in 2015, his only other starting performance in his 12-Test career.

"I guess playing in South Africa there's no other place quite like it in terms of playing Test match footy. I've played there twice now and it's a pretty daunting place, a lot of noise, a lot of pressure and to sort of come through that game and get the win gives the team a lot of confidence and myself a lot of confidence too," he said.

Sopoaga said the main difference from when he first appeared in the side was having grown into the environment and feeling more comfortable rather than daunted.

Fellow Highlander Liam Squire said he could relate to what Sopoaga said and felt that more time in the saddle allowed him to become more comfortable in his role in the side and that helped in preparation throughout the week ahead of games.

"The more time you get, the more crucial it is," he said.

Squire didn't seem himself as the No.1 blindside flanker but said he was enjoying the starts he had received but with Jerome Kaino and Vaea Fifita vying for his place he had to perform every time he got the chance.

Both players reflected on the influences on their careers with Sopoaga pointing to the example that Dan Carter had set while having a mortgage on the No.10 jersey and he said having the chance to be in the All Blacks alongside Carter had been special. He added that Aaron Cruden had also been important, especially when he was first in the Hurricanes squad.

Squire said Kaino and Jerry Collins had an impact on him growing up.

"The way Jerry played was exciting to watch and JK was very similar. To be learning alongside JK now is massive for me," he said.