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'Nothing to lose': How Tyrel Lomax revived his All Black career at Ellis Park

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

All Blacks tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax travelled with the squad to South Africa with his international career stalled but may just kickstarted it dramatically.

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The 26-year-old debuted for the All Blacks in 2020 after his first season at the Hurricanes after moving up from Dunedin after a stint at the Highlanders.

He has been primarily used off the bench with previously just three starts in his first 15 tests but missed selection for this year’s original Rugby Championship and Ireland series squads.

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After a starring performance in a revamped All Black front row at Ellis Park, Lomax could now feature more prominently as the team prepares for a home stretch of two tests against Argentina.

“I think I’ve come away from [Ellis Park] with a lot of confidence,” Lomax said.

“They are a team I’ve always wanted to play against because of how dominant the forwards are, so to go against them and come away with a win, was huge.”

Angus Ta’avao was given the start in the first test in Mbombela, before Lomax was given a chance at tighthead in the second test.

The Hurricanes prop said he went in with a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality after missing out on the original All Black squad.

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“Over those two weeks [in South Africa], I was just there as injury cover,” he said.

“I went in with the mentality that I didn’t have much to lose, I could play really well or really bad and might still end up in the same spot, back with Tasman.

“Obviously dealing with the disappointment of not making the team a couple of months ago, I couldn’t have my head in the sand for too long.

“I tried to get back on the horse and get some good games together.”

The Ellis Park victory was not just big for Lomax personally but the development of the pack as a whole under new forwards coach Jason Ryan.

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After conceding multiple maul tries against Ireland the set-piece defence improved to deny the Springboks any rolling maul tries over the two tests.

They also largely stopped the South Africans from winning penalties at the set-piece as a means to get down the field.

“I think it was a huge step forward as a pack,” he said

“Jase [Ryan] talked a few weeks ago about the forward pack getting dented and to go out there and put together that sort of performance, it was good for us.”

The former Crusaders assistant coach has been able to quickly restore some pride in the All Black pack that looked second best against Ireland.

Lomax said that he has been able to form relationships quickly that has got the forwards committed to the cause.

“He is very passionate, he cares a lot about the team and a lot about the players,” he said.

“He’s just a guy you don’t really want to let down.

“Around the set-piece, the Boks were a team that wanted to meet us up front around the set-piece, maul and scrum, lineout so those were the areas that we really worked on.”

Many of the starters from Ellis Park are expected to have first rights on positions in this week’s test against Los Pumas, who are top of the Rugby Championship table after two rounds.

The All Blacks are expecting a physical encounter from the visitors who managed a record 48-17 win over the Wallabies in San Juan.

“They are quite an unorthodox team but one thing they do do well is play with a lot of passion and pride,” Lomax said.

“They will be up for it, they will be physical.”

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mitch 1 hours ago
The Wallabies team Joe Schmidt must pick to win back Bledisloe Cup

Rodda will be a walk up starter at lock. Frost if you analyse his dominance has little impact and he’s a long way from being physical enough, especially when you compare to Rodda and the work he does. He was quite poor at the World Cup in his lack of physicality. Between Rodda and Skelton we would have locks who can dominate the breakdown and in contact. Frost is maybe next but Schmidt might go for a more physical lock who does their core work better like Ryan or LSL. Swain is no chance unless there’s a load of injuries. Pollard hasn’t got the scrum ability yet to be considered. Nasser dominated him when they went toe to toe and really showed him up. Picking Skelton effects who can play 6 and 8. Ideally Valetini would play 6 as that’s his best position and Wilson at 8 but that’s not ideal for lineout success. Cale isn’t physical enough yet in contact and defence but is the best backrow lineout jumper followed by Wright, Hanigan and Swinton so unfortunately Valetini probably will start at 8 with Wright or Hanigan at 6. Wilson on the bench, he’s got too much quality not to be in the squad. Paisami is leading the way at 12 but Hamish Stewart is playing extremely well also and his ball carrying has improved significantly. Beale is also another option based on the weekend. Beale is class but he’s also the best communicator of any Australian backline player and that can’t be underestimated, he’ll be in the mix.

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