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Josh Lord opens up on 11-month injury layoff and ‘special’ All Blacks return

By Finn Morton
(Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

When the All Blacks revealed their 36-man squad for the Rugby Championship earlier this month, there were some interesting selections and shocking omissions.

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The inclusion of five debutants in the squad – including Hurricanes halfback Cam Roigard and Crusaders flyer Dallas McLeod – dominated headlines, as expected.

But the absences of players including Hoskins Sotutu, Brad Weber, and even Shaun Stevenson from the initial squad, certainly raised some eyebrows.

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But amongst all the chatter, clutter and widespread excitement, the inclusion of Chiefs lock Josh Lord somewhat flew under the radar.

Lord, who is the fifth-tallest player in All Blacks history, made his Test debut against the United States in Washington back in 2021. The rising star made one more appearance during the end-of-season tour – and the lock appeared destined for more.

But a knee injury ended Lord’s Super Rugby season in 2022, and prevented the second-rower from returning to the All Blacks – and the Chiefs as well.

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Lord returned for the Chiefs in the ninth round of Super Rugby Pacific this year and went on to make a further three appearances for the eventual runners-up – but there’s plenty more to look forward to in 2023.

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With the Rugby World Cup nigh on the horizon, Lord opened up about the “special” opportunity to return to the national setup.

“It’s always pretty special to hear your name called out,” Lord told RugbyPass.

“When you get the chance to work with some world-class players and some bloody coaches, and hopefully push hard to play a few games and put my best foot forward really.

“It’s definitely going to be special. There’s been a lot of hard work that’s gone into it from not just myself but the medical team as well as mates and family.

“It’s special to be able to share the journey along with them.”

Lord was actually selected for the All Blacks’ squad to take on northern hemisphere heavyweights Ireland last year, but had to withdraw due to injury.

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After a tough 11 months, the 2.03m lock returned to the rugby field with the Chiefs Development side, and later club side Coastal in Taranaki.

Lord clearly took things day by day and just focused on what he could control. But the towering lock did say that the goal of returning to the All Blacks “was always in the back of my mind.”

“I guess it was always in the back of my mind. Like everyone, you always wanted to push for higher honours and represent your country,” he added.

“I guess for me at the time it was just more about getting out there, enjoying a bit of footy and trying to stay healthy and then just letting things happen.

“If it’s meant to be it will be, and if it’s not meant to be it’s not the end of the world. That was my mindset.”

Still only 22 years of age, Lord has plenty of rugby ahead of him.

But the tough 11 months on the sidelines haven’t exactly been for nothing, either. Lord has returned to competitive rugby with a new perspective – which at such a young age could be prove invaluable.

“Just going out there and enjoying it and taking each game by game and like I said, if you go out there the game will take care of whatever else is meant to happen.

“I’ve kind of gone from being not injured to sitting on the sidelines for 11 months, so it was a bit of a shock to the system.

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“It was also good to spend a bit of time away from footy, spend a bit of time with friends and family.

“It kind of changes your perspective, probably a little bit more time that goes into rehab stuff which is probably not a bad thing to be learning earlier on in your career.”

The All Blacks begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Los Pumas in Mendoza, Argentina next month.

New Zealand will then return home to face the Springboks in Auckland before travelling across the ditch to take on Eddie Jones’ Wallabies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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