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‘There’s nothing like it’: All Black Cam Roigard reflects on ‘dream debut’

By Finn Morton
Ardie Savea of the All Blacks and Cam Roigard of the All Blacks pose with the Bledisloe Cup after winning The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Nobody could’ve scripted Cam Roigard’s “dream debut” any better than how it played out on Saturday evening against the Wallabies.

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With more than 83,000 rugby fans in attendance at the world-famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, Roigard was seen training with the rest of the All Blacks’ bench during the Test.

But it was all leading to that unforgettable moment that practically every New Zealander has dreamed about at some point in their life.

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For many kids who call New Zealand home, there is no bigger dream or goal than playing in the black jersey. It’s almost hard to explain what it means to people from Aotearoa.

The black jersey isn’t just a shirt or a piece of fabric, it’s a reflection of the All Blacks’ legacy, prestige and aura.

But it’s a dream that alludes most Kiwis. Only the best of the best get to play for the All Blacks, and Cam Roigard is the latest to have bestowed that honour.

Roigard was injected into Test rugby for the first time in the 61st minute. In that moment the 22-year-old officially became All Black No. 1210.

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The rest of the night must have passed like a blur. Roigard held his own on the field, and was also left holding the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship trophies about 30 minutes after taking the field.

About 20 minutes after the full-time siren, and taking some pictures with the trophies and celebrating with his teammates, a wide-eyed Roigard walked off the hallowed turf at the MCG and down the tunnel.

Roigard was handed The Rugby Championship trophy by winger Mark Telea before walking up to a sea of reporters, who were waiting eagerly to speak with the debutant about the Test.

“Dream come true really, a dream debut,” Roigard told reporters. “There’s no bigger occasion.

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“We know how much the Bledisloe Cup means to us and The Rugby Championship so to be a part of one of those games and for it to be my debut as well is awesome.

“Every All Black that gets their debut just wants to get another crack. Hopefully I do get another one but at the moment I’m just going to enjoy this one.”

By his own admission, Roigard hasn’t had “the best couple of sleeps” in the leadup to Bledisloe I in Melbourne. Finally, after being named in the squad last month, Roigard’s debut was finally here.

But the halfback looked anything but nervous during the Test.

Roigard was seen training with the rest of the All Blacks’ bench during the first half – doing what they could to stay warm and ready if called upon by coach Ian Foster.

Practising some box kicks and passing as well, Roigard even “surprised” himself.

“I was probably more excited than nervous,” he added. “I think that reflects the confidence that the players and teammates around him in me.

“They gave me plenty of confidence and they were really pleased for me when I did get named in the squad to play.

“Just the support from my friends and family, and I suppose the rest of the country gave me that little bit of confidence that I am here for a reason.”

Roigard was named in the All Blacks’ initial 36-man squad, but at least during the first two Tests, had to watch from the sidelines as Finlay Christie was given the nod as the replacement No. 9.

The halfback travelled to South America ahead of the clash with Los Pumas in Mendoza, and was of course also in Auckland for the All Blacks’ win over South Africa.

While he hasn’t been playing, Roigard explained the All Blacks environment has helped him become a better player.

“I’m really fortunate the coaching group in here is awesome, and the environment itself it’s really hard not to develop and learn because everyone wants to perform and get better.

“Alongside other nines, although we’re competitive, we’re all helping each other to be better and be the best we can be.

“It’s a really awesome environment and I love it.”

The All Blacks take on the Wallabies at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium next weekend.

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4 Comments
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007 351 days ago

Eludes, not 'alludes'. Finn, please proofread your articles!

R
Ruby 351 days ago

I'd like to see him start in Bled2, not just because it's a dead rubber but also because Aaron performed very poorly, he wasn't getting great ball for a lot of it but some of that was inexcusable, I think that he would benefit from some rest, start Roigard and give Christie 30 minutes to stake his claim on a World Cup squad spot.

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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