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'If needed, I'm there': Leicester Fainga'anuku ready for All Blacks challenge

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz)

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Uncapped wing Leicester Fainga’anuku is excited to bring something new to the All Blacks camp as the side prepares to face Ireland in three tests next month.

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After capturing the Super Rugby Pacific final title at Eden Park last weekend, the 22-year-old will join his new team on a high after a standout season with the Crusaders.

The Tasman product is confident knowing he has the opportunity to learn from some of the best players in the country as he pushes for a potential All Blacks debut.

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“I wouldn’t base too much off that [Super Rugby Pacific final], I think that the confidence that I get for myself is finding enjoyment in what I do and taking every opportunity as it comes,” Fainga’anuku told media on Tuesday.

“For me to be here and get the opportunity to grow alongside some of the best players in New Zealand, and coaches, that’s what gives me confidence. I understand they back my ability to be here, that’s all I really need.”

While many of his existing Crusaders teammates will join him in the squad, the blockbusting wing said there were too many quality players to learn off to highlight just one.

“It’s really hard to pick. I’m in a team filled with talent, filled with quality and, just in general, really good guys that I’m really excited to be a part of this journey with them, get out and represent this nation with them.”

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Fainga’anuku, who was born in Tonga, expressed excitement at the opportunity to represent the nation where his family raised him, and hopes to be a part of an All Black side that makes New Zealand proud when they take on Ireland.

“I’m not a man that fears a few things in life, I think it is a whole lot of excitement for me to be here,” he said.

“The quality of players here that at the same time, we all have got one goal here which is to do this nation proud on the big stage, is all we are here for.

“Obviously we come from different franchises the last few weeks, to come as one as All Blacks, that is truly special. We are proud to put it on our shoulders and take on the world.

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“I had a moment when the first team announcement came out, all I felt was truly grateful to be able to be named in the squad, reflecting the last few days how far I’ve come.

“What makes it really special to be here is the people that have always believed in me, since the day I picked up a rugby ball. That’s what always going to make every jersey special to me and every team I make, is the people behind me.”

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Capable of also playing at centre, Fainga’anuku hasn’t discussed with coaches what role he’ll take, but he will likely compete for game time with returning Blues star Caleb Clarke and Crusaders teammates Will Jordan and Sevu Reece for the wing positions.

“I think there isn’t much the coaches want to change about me, it’s just keep building confidence. Obviously there is going to be areas to work on,” he said.

“There’s always something in your game that you want to grow and work on.

“I’ll find that myself during training weeks or games itself and take it on the chin, continuing growing my game.”

His positional versatility is something Fainga’anuku hopes to maintain as he made himself available to play in the midfield for the All Blacks if required.

“That’s a good question. I always like to showcase a new area of my game, and I guess that just opens up an option for the coaches to have a player that can cover both midfield and outside,” he said.

“I try to keep that consistent and keep growing that [versatility].

“If needed, I’m there to secure that 13 and also on the outside. It’s all about growth and I’ve got those tools in the toolbox ready to pull out when it’s needed.”

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