All Blacks and Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles isn’t planning on changing the way he plays rugby despite being voted the “biggest grub” in a New Zealand player poll.
44 percent of Super Rugby players nationwide voted Coles as the “biggest grub” in the country as part of an anonymous poll conducted by NZME radio producer Sam Casey earlier this year.
The 33-year-old veteran topped the poll by a considerable margin, with All Blacks teammate Brodie Retallick registering in second-place with just 15 percent of the vote, while Jordie Barrett was voted the third-biggest grub at 10 percent.
Speaking on the What a Lad podcast, hosted by fellow Hurricanes teammate James Marshall, Coles conceded the results were a fair reflection of how he plays, but said he isn’t concerned that his peers view him as New Zealand’s biggest grub.
“Yeah, probably true to be fair,” Coles said when asked for his thoughts on the poll.
“As you get older, you just got to embrace it, and that’s what I kind of am [doing].
“I can’t do much about it. It’s what the people want and I guess that’s what they’ve voted, so I’ve got to get on with it.”
The 69-test All Black said he put his on-field antics down to his passion for winning, and outlined he has no intention of changing the way he conducts himself during matches.
“It probably just comes out as passion and just trying to do everything I can to win. Sometimes it comes out a verbal spray, and I’ve copped it. I’ve been sin binned for the way I play, with my heart on my sleeve, and I probably play on the edge,” he said.
“Things don’t always go to plan and I’ve got to live with that, but that’s just who I am and it’s got me this far, so I’m just going to keep doing it.”
Coles added that the way he goes about playing the game is “just what happens on the field”, and maintained that none of his banter with opposition players have been personal attacks.
“It’s nothing personal. I’ve had things on the field, but as soon as that game’s finished, I’ll shake your hand and walk off and have a beer with you.
“I’ve never carried it on and hold grudges and stuff like that. It’s just what happens on the field.”
Marshall described his Hurricanes teammate as a “misunderstood” figure, pointing to another result from the poll that saw Coles voted as the third-most respected player in New Zealand behind All Blacks captain Sam Cane and Retallick.
Coles said that misconception of how he is off the field compared to what he is like on it has led to many questions from fans about how he behaves outside of rugby.
“I do get that a lot, questions from kids and other people, like, ‘Are you real angry off the field?’, and I’m like, ‘No!’
“I was like, ‘If you keep asking that question I’ll probably get angry’, but no, I’m not.
“It wouldn’t be sustainable being the way I am on the field off the field. I wouldn’t have a wife and three kids, that’s for sure.”
One of Coles’ most notable on-field duels in recent memory came during the opening weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa when he faced off against the Blues at Eden Park two months ago.
The match was his former Hurricanes teammate Beauden Barrett’s debut for the Auckland franchise after he inked a four-year deal with the club last year.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 23, 2020
As a long-serving Hurricanes stalwart, Coles was vocal about his disappointment in seeing Barrett depart Wellington for the Blues, and he made sure the two-time World Rugby Player of the Year knew about it during the encounter.
While the Hurricanes lost the match 30-20, Coles drew plenty of attention in the opening minutes when he celebrated a try by swarming Barrett along with his teammates.
The pair engaged in some pushing and shoving in the dying minutes of the clash, Coles admitted he was wary of not being drawn into a personal war of words as he revealed he has said things to other players in the past that he has since come to regret.
“In the past, I’ve said stuff that I’ve regretted to players. Media or people will talk it up [and] say something, so you’re like ‘If I get this guy, I’m going to say this’,” he said.
“With Baz [Barrett], because we’re obviously good mates, I didn’t want to say anything that was personal, so during the week, I was thinking, ‘Don’t say anything personal, don’t be a d***head and ruin your friendship’.”
Although he made sure not to go overboard with his chat, Coles said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run over Barrett en route to scoring his try, and commended his All Blacks teammate for the way he handled the competitive edge.
“It was like a movie. I just seen him and was like, ‘I’m going to try and run over him’.
“I didn’t even plan anything, I just got up and I seen him and I was like ‘Yeah, Bazza!’ and the boys just jumped on him.
“But, to his credit, he took it like a champ… It was all good fun. Like I said, [we] had a beer after the game and that was it, we left it on the field. He’s a good man, Baz.”
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