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Zinzan Brooke

Brooke played for the All Blacks between 1987 and 1997, playing 58 tests and 42 matches. Across the 100 matches, Brooke scored 195 points, made up of 42 tries and three drop goals. He is considered one of the best number eights to have ever played for the All Blacks with running and kicking skills of a back along with the strength and mobility of a great loose forward.

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Zinzan Brooke: Papalii will be just fine on debut

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Zinzan Brooke     03 Nov 2018     Getty Images

This is a great opportunity for him. He’ll be fine. He’s got big boots to step into, but this young fella just needs to do his job. The adrenaline is going to be pumping for all eight of the All Blacks debutants, but don’t try too hard or the mistakes will come. 

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I made my Test debut at openside in the first Rugby World Cup against Argentina in 1987. I was 22, just a bit older than Dalton, and absolutely packing myself. I remember the coach, Brian Lochore, asked me the night before the game if I would lead the haka. I was the only Maori boy in that side. I knew how to do the haka, but leading it was a different thing altogether. Added to that was the fact that the Pumas had drawn with the All Blacks in 1985. Hugo Porta was playing and I had to try and shut him down. Buck (Shelford) told me to do the haka and then my game would flow after that, because you know how to play. So that’s how I got through it.

I actually woke up at 6am on test morning and went for a long walk around the Wellington streets, practising the haka while I was on my walk, trying to stay composed. So I know exactly what Dalton is going through, but what an honour for him to wear the black jersey for the first time.

I applaud Dane Coles’ decision to turn down the captaincy for this Test to focus on his own game as he comes back from that knee injury. The Rugby World Cup is just 12 months away. He won’t lose his reputation. He is part of the team’s spine. There are six positions there: two, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 and 15. Coles just needs to focus on execution of lineouts and scrums. The rest will come. He has some competition, of course. Codie Taylor played very well against Australia.
I had my memory jogged that I toured with the 1987 All Blacks to Japan and scored four tries on the blindside in Tokyo. Eight years later, at the Rugby World Cup, I couldn’t score one when we beat them 145-17. I think I set up a couple, though!

John Hart was the coach of that 1987 side. We set the tone for some of the rugby we played from 1988-89. It was about putting a marker in the ground developing the game in Japan, as well as blooding some young players. Japan was not at the level they are now, but we still had to respect the jersey and Buck (Shelford) made sure we did.

Luke Whitelock as captain is a good choice. He’s a very well-rounded player with a lot of provincial experience and knows what it takes to win matches. We don’t want to see what happened to South Africa against Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I don’t think we will see that. That was great for the neutral, but the Boks took their foot off the gas and rightly got nutmegged by Japan.

The Japanese are a very proud people and will not want to lie down. They do love the All Blacks and have a lot of respect for us. But I know Jamie Joseph and he will have them primed for the early onslaught. They won’t want to be embarrassed.

I’m not going cautious with my prediction. The Japanese will have a tough time researching some of these players. They might not have heard of them all. They will know the 19 players who have already flown to England.

It might get up to a point a minute, if the All Blacks find their groove, so I’ll go 72-23 to the visitors.