When I was called into the All Blacks squad I got the call from the All Black Manager Darren Shand. It was around 10pm. I wasn’t really expecting the call so when I saw his name show up on my mobile the first thing I thought was, “Oh no, Dan’s injury must be pretty bad.” Shandy said that I would be named in the All Blacks squad in the morning. It took me a little while to actually go to sleep that night and when I woke up I lay there and thought, “Wow, I really am going to play a part in this Rugby World Cup.”
Coming into the All Black squad at the knockout stage of the competition brings a very different challenge from starting a campaign. I’ve just been trying to prepare as thoroughly as possible. Everyone, players and management, have all made me feel very welcome and taken me straight into the fold.
There’s been some serious studying but there’s also been opportunity to share a laugh and a joke, which keeps things balanced. I’ve been able to pick up our structures very quickly because the boys are always chatting to me. It’s all done calmly so that I would be ready if the opportunity arose for me to take the field. So when I came on against Argentina in the quarterfinal I felt well prepared.
A couple of weeks ago I was learning to ride my long board and falling off, now I’m picking up bruises on the rugby paddock at a Rugby World Cup. It’s funny how things can change so quickly in a couple of weeks. It’s been a really enjoyable ride and hopefully I can keep riding for the next couple of weeks.
My phone is still ringing off the hook. It’s so humbling. Getting so many texts and phone calls of support has made me feel blessed and very grateful. The team is filled with such a great bunch of guys, really down to earth, typical Kiwi blokes. Jimmy (Cowan) has been my roommate and he has looked after me well. I try to get around, to mix and mingle with all of the boys.
I’m really excited to be starting in this week’s game against Australia. Aussie and New Zealand are great traditional rivals, regardless of what is being played, so when you throw the semifinal of the Rugby World Cup into that mix, I don’t think it can get any better. The atmosphere at Eden Park is going to be electric; it’s going to be huge. It’s something we are all looking forward to. It should be a classic.