'He'll be pretty pumped up to take a few of our heads off'
Tonga have named thirteen debutants for the game, including nine in the starting side, with many of their players only part-time professionals.
While the All Blacks themselves have named a handful of new players for the game, they’re all men who’ve spent the season toughing it out in Super Rugby – and they also have the likes of proven performers Coles, captain Samuel Whitelock and benchwarmer Beauden Barrett to call upon on the evening.
Coles, however, has said the All Blacks won’t be taking their opposition lightly.
“It’s a test match,” he stated. “I know a couple of those boys. I’m good mates with Mateaki [Kafatolu], the blindside flanker, from Petone. And I know his mindset; he’ll be pretty pumped up to take a few of our heads off.
“As players, we don’t think about if they’re a club player, a professional player or a guy coming from work. They’re going to represent their country and we’re going to represent our country. I know the Tonga boys will be out to go hard and get into us – and we’ll be doing the same.”
The All Blacks’ clash with Tonga is the second game of a doubleheader at Mount Smart on Saturday night, with the Maori All Blacks also hosting Samoa. As such, there’ll likely be plenty of red and blue flags in the crowd, as well as the customary black.
That, along with the fact that the All Blacks are blooding four debutants in the form of midfielder Quinn Tupaea and reserves George Bower, Ethan Blackadder and Finlay Christie, will add to the exciting atmosphere of the night.
“It’s the first test there so there’s been that real excitement, I suppose, about us,” Coles said. “Especially, there’s a different team – a lot of new guys getting an opportunity so it’s created a real bit of excitement.
“I suppose we’re just worrying about our team and I suppose there’s a few little connections with the Maori All Black, a few of us know the Samoan boys as well, a few boys know the Tongans so it’ll be quite cool after the game is finished to catch up with some old mates and have a few beers.”
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Mount Smart is home to New Zealand’s sole NRL team, the Warriors, and Coles – a self-described rugby league nut – couldn’t be happier to be running out on the stadium’s hallowed turf.
“[I’m] bloody pumped, to be fair,” he said. “Didn’t make it as a Warrior but I get to go there as an All Black so yeah it’s pretty cool.
“We actually had the day off yesterday, a few of us went out to the stadium with the Mad Butcher and he showed us all the jerseys he’s collected over a few years, so it was good. It was good to have a yarn. We went to the changing rooms and their gym and stuff like that. Seen big Jerry Seuseu, that was quite cool. So yeah, pumped to be there as an All Black.”
Saturday’s doubleheader kicks off at 4:30pm NZT, with the All Blacks taking the field at 7:05pm.
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