Latest winger off All Blacks' production line to be unleashed on Scotland
When New Zealand first announced their squad for their end-of-year tour to Japan and Europe, Mark Telea was nowhere to be found. Now, the 25-year-old is set to become the newest All Black when the side takes on Scotland on Sunday.
Telea was in superb form for the Blues and North Harbour this year and has spent time in camp with the squad due when injuries have struck but the likes of Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Leicester Fainga’anuku and Blues teammate Caleb Clarke have all been preferred ahead of the winger this year when it’s come to national selection.
With Fainga’anuku and Jordan both unavailable for the formative stages of the team’s tour to the Northern Hemisphere (and Jordan subsequently ruled out altogether), Telea was whistled into the squad of a full-time basis and he now has the opportunity to don the black jersey at Murrayfield.
“He’s trained well, prepared well, got good aerial skills and I just think he’s hungry for an opportunity,” Foster said of his new No 14.
“So he’s sort of ticked all those boxes and we’re delighted to give him a first Test start. It’s a big occasion for him.
“He’s been around the team a while and I thought he was probably one of the form players, form wings for most of Super Rugby and certainly in the NPC he had a strong campaign. So he is coming in with plenty of confidence.”
Telea’s Super Rugby teammate Beauden Barrett said Telea was more than deserving of getting a run in Edinburgh.
“We’re all really excited for him. We think that he’s good to go. He’s a phenomenal player and athlete and defensively is one of the best on the right wing, so I’m excited for him and his family and I think he deserves it.
“He’s been very patient. He goes about his work in a quiet manner and you just see in the way he performs on the field, his deceptive strength and speed and his ability to be physical. I think he weighed in this morning just over a hundred kilos. He doesn’t really look like that but he is a strong, strong, winger so I’m just so excited for him.
“And every time a new player gets the opportunity to wear the jersey for the first time is a special moment. So for him to have many Blues teammates around him, it’s going to be a special occasion.”
Seven Blues players will start for the All Blacks on Sunday, including Telea, Barrett, Nepo Laulala, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie and Caleb Clarke while Stephen Perofeta and Rieko Ioane all poised on the bench.
Whether that’s the right balance or not won’t be known until the weekend, suggested Barrett – but he noted that it’s certainly rewarding to see so many of his teammates in black, especially with Telea earning his first international cap.
“It’s great. I guess when we play at Super level, that’s the goal, to play well enough to make the All Blacks and develop as rugby players and be the best we can be,” he said. “So I think the special thing is we get one of our brothers who gets his first crack at it on the right wing this week and it’s gonna be special for Mark.”
Sunday’s fixture is due to kick off at 2:15pm GMT.
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