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Waldrom relishes late start to All Blacks career

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NZPA     18 Nov 2008     Getty Images

The long wait to become a fully fledged All Black ends at Thomond Park Stadium tomorrow morning (NZT) when the Taranaki openside flanker becomes one of two newcomers to run on in the coveted black jersey.

Canterbury prop Ben Franks also starts against Munster while Hawke's Bay hooker Hikawera Elliot and Wellington halfback Alby Mathewson are poised to join the duo from the bench as the All Blacks mark the 30th anniversary of the 1978 New Zealand team's shock 0-12 loss to the Irish province.

Waldrom articulated the enthusiasm shared by the quartet.

"I can't wait, it's been a pretty long tour waiting to finally get a game. To get a start in a game with as much history as this is pretty exciting."

His selection as Richie McCaw's cover will come 10 days after he would have preferred.

The 28-year-old was bitterly disappointed to be overlooked for the 22-man squad to play Scotland when the European leg of the All Blacks' end-of-year tour opened at Murrayfield on November 8.

"I kind of got my hopes up that I might get a run against Scotland, even on the bench or something," Waldrom said.

However, Adam Thomson started in McCaw's position while the tour captain was among the reserves.

That left Waldrom as the odd uncapped loose forward out after Kieran Read and Liam Messam made their debuts during the 32-6 win.

He ended us following the Test as a comments man for New Zealand radio, an alternative "to just sitting in the crowd".

"I tried to make sure I didn't look too upset," Waldrom said.

"You just have to put any disappointment aside and do what's best for the team although you do feel a bit strange being around all the All Blacks gear and not really feeling like one."

McCaw was always going to start against Ireland in Dublin last weekend so realistically the midweek game with Heineken Cup champions Munster was Waldrom's only remaining opportunity, ahead of upcoming Tests against Wales and England.

Even then he was made to sweat. The team announcement was put back three days until the aftermath of the victory over Ireland.

"As this game got closer I got a bit nervous because they took so long to name it," he said.

"I thought I might have just been on the bench so to finally hear the starting team and get to wear that number seven jersey ... it's pretty unreal.

"It's got huge history, growing up my childhood idols were Michael Jones and Josh Kronfeld."

And before that duo the jersey belonged to Graham Mourie, the All Blacks captain when Munster scored an historic win over the New Zealanders.

Waldrom is aware of the significance of following in Mourie's footsteps.

"I'll be doing my best to make sure I'm not in the shoes he was 30 years ago. All the guys in the 22 are pretty keen to make sure that doesn't happen again," he said.

Waldrom's promotion to the All Blacks followed his decision three years ago to shift his allegiance to Mourie's original province Taranaki from Wellington where he struggled for game time among a loose forward unit that included Jerry Collins, Rodney So'oialo and openside Chris Masoe.

Niall Ronan, the Munster openside flanker, might have to wait a while for his All Blacks jersey, a memento of the commemorative match.

Waldrom, like all new All Blacks, has been issued with two jerseys but his father Tony has dibs on one and he may hold on to the other one.

"Dad's put his hand up and said he's getting the first one," he said.

"I'm tempted to keep the other one, too. I'm not sure when I'll ever get a game again, or if I'll ever get a game again."