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Why Shaun Stevenson believes he’s ‘ready to play Test rugby’

By Finn Morton
(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Make no mistake, Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson believes he’s “ready to play Test rugby.”

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Stevenson has been labelled a potential bolter for the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup squad for quite some time – and the high-flying outside back has shown no signs of slowing down this season.

Fans, pundits and even retired greats, including legendary All Black Ian Jones, want to see Stevenson don the coveted black jersey when New Zealand pursue rugby immortality in France later this year.

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The All Blacks XV took the field for the first time last year, and Stevenson was one of the standouts. Already on the cusp of national selection by playing for the ‘B’ team, the outside back was sensational.

Stevenson crossed for a double against Ireland A, with All Blacks great Ian Jones later saying that the outside back was “ready” for Test rugby.

That’s high praise – but with that comes pressure and expectation.

But again, Stevenson has shown no signs of slowing down.

Stevenson has been one of the form players of Super Rugby Pacific this season, having scored the most tries out of any player in the competition after 11 rounds.

The Chiefs have won all 10 of their matches this season, including two against the champion Crusaders, and the 26-year-old has held the key to their success.

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While Stevenson has had to overcome being dropped and other challenges throughout his young career, the opportunity to play for the Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV has left him feeling confident.

So confident, in fact, that the exciting talent believes he’s “ready to play Test rugby.”

“Those ups and downs and playing Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV, I think I am ready to play Test rugby,” Stevenson told RugbyPass.

“If I do get a callup I’ll be very grateful to represent my country, if I do get the opportunity to represent my country I’ll try to take it with two hands.

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“With the confidence that I’m trying to play with at the moment, hopefully I can put that on the field and not shy away that it’s a step up but it’s the same players you’re playing in Super Rugby.

“Once we get there I’ll have to lean on some of the older boys in terms of some experience if I do get to that point, but I do feel like I am ready to play Test rugby.”

For Stevenson, the ability to play with such unwavering confidence and belief began against Ireland last year.

While the All Blacks were preparing for their titanic three-Test series against Ireland in July, the Auckland-born prospect was included in the Maori All Blacks squad to play Andy Farrell’s men.

Stevenson crossed for the teams second try during their incredible 32-17 upset win in Hamilton, and scored another five-pointer in the second match against Ireland a couple of weeks later.

Since, Stevenson has gone from strength to strength at all levels of the game – revealing that the secret to his success has been “time in the saddle.”

“It kind of started from the Maori’s if I’m going to be honest, last year when we played Ireland as well,” he added.

“I’ve had a few media people ask me, ‘What’s the reason behind the confidence and stuff?’ To be honest, it’s just game time, time in the saddle.

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“I always knew that I could do it… I’ve been through where I haven’t been picked in previous years… you obviously grow a lot from those ups and downs of not getting picked.

“I knew that I always had it in me and I guess I got to a point where I was like, ‘Oh well, if I make a few mistakes, it’s not the end of the world.’

“As you get older you just go with the flow and I guess I’m just riding the wave at the moment.”

For rugby players in New Zealand, the opportunity to go to this year’s Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks would surely be a childhood dream come true.

But not everyone gets to go. It’s an exclusive group of 33 players, but Stevenson is gunning for a spot.

Coach Ian Foster recently named Stevenson and Chiefs teammate Emoni Narawa as potential bolters ahead of The Rugby Championship and beyond.

The pressure appears to be on, but Stevenson isn’t fazed.

“Obviously you live in New Zealand so it’s quite a small country, you’re gonna be hearing stuff around about your name.

“Obviously it’s nice that people are talking about you and I’m glad that my footy is reflecting in that hopefully.

“I’m just happy to keep doing myself and be the best I can be for my team.

“The Chiefs haven’t had a championship for a while… the main goal is to win the championship here, it’s been 10 years so it’s time that we’re due for a championship.

“Obviously external noise is good noise.”

Stevenson has been named at fullback ahead of the Chiefs’ clash with the Queensland Reds in New Plymouth on Friday.

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