'I was having a few words with Marcos Kremer': Blackadder's confident start at 6
All Black loose forward Ethan Blackadder got his first test start since the Fiji clash in Dunedin against Los Pumas and put in an impressive 80-minute performance as one of New Zealand’s best in the 36-13 win at Suncorp Stadium.
Blackadder saw action from the bench in the third test in Perth, before another bench appearance last week on the Gold Coast.
Returning to the starting line-up, Blackadder finally got to wear the No 6 jersey on the blindside, a position he played all year successfully with the Crusaders that led to his national call-up.
“It was really cool wearing the six jersey for the first time for the All Blacks last night. I really enjoyed the first 80 minutes in that jersey, it’s been a few months since I’ve played a full game,” Blackadder told the press on Sunday.
“I like any sort of role in the loose forwards, but especially wearing that jersey was one I won’t forget.”
Blackadder made 12 carries in his fifth test, as well as 15 tackles and winning one turnover in a performance with a high work rate and industrious endeavour.
“My game is probably that [high work rate], it’s something I’ve always done,” Blackadder said on looking like he’d run a marathon by fulltime.
“I’m working on other areas I want to get better at with the staff and coaches we’ve got here. I suppose you play to your strengths as such, it’s a game where you are always constantly trying to be sharp and work on other things.
The inexperienced Blackadder wasn’t shy against the experienced trio of Marcos Kremer, future Crusaders teammate Pablo Matera and Juan Martin Gonzalez, having a run-in with the fiery Argentine openside at a scrum late in the first half.
Blackadder was seen sharing words with Kremer while tapping his mouthguard on his own chest repeatedly.
“I was having a few words with Marcos Kremer, the No 7 for Argentina, we were having a bit of a set-to. It was a bit of fun in the end,” he said.
After battling to stay fit, Blackadder doesn’t feel his injury setbacks have been a hindrance, instead seeing them as an opportunity to work on his game and improve his areas that aren’t so strong.
“It’s not really misfortune I don’t think, I thank all the injuries I had because it gave me a chance to do other things and get better at my game I feel,” he explained.
“It’s just furniture in the game and we just have to accept we are all going to get an injury at some stage and fortunately at the moment I’m having an alright run with no injuries.”
Staying fit is just one part of the puzzle for getting game time within the All Blacks, where the loose forward stocks are up there as one of the strongest position groups, leading to intense competition for places.
Blackadder says he is learning a lot from being in the group and making sure to “not take things for granted” in pursuit of getting more minutes in the black jersey.
“To be honest, it is an environment where you learn heaps of everyone. In the loose forwards for example, we are a really tight group and there are just so many different opinions so we are constantly having conversations, just a great bunch of blokes to learn off.
“That is thing, there is so a lot of competition among the loose forwards. Doing the one percenters and just not taking things for granted and not completing things, that’s what I try and do with my game and recovery and everything else that goes with it.”
Although he doesn’t call anyone in the group a specific mentor, Blackadder said he did model his game as a loose forward on a few players including former Highlanders and All Black Liam Squire.
“There has been a few [players], my old teammate and friend Liam Squire, I used to like the way he played dating back years and years ago,” he said.
“I actually ended up playing with him 2019, so that was pretty cool. I’d say him to be honest.
“He is a helpful dude. I used to always ask him questions and he was always willing to help, so that was pretty cool of him.”
Compared to Super Rugby, Blackadder rated his 80-minute game against the Pumas as one of the toughest of his career taking into account the speed and humidity around the air in Brisbane.
“Yeah it probably was, being on the international stage and the humidity and heat of the game, and it was pretty fast too to be fair. It was.
“Most games I’m feeling it to be honest, and that was definitely up there.”
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