Code-hopper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says his promotion to the All Blacks match-day squad is the next step on his journey to becoming ‘the best in the world’.
The former New Zealand rugby league captain is among the Kiwi replacements and set to make a Test debut in a series-deciding Test against Ireland in Wellington – a notable selection given that it has been less than a year since his headline-grabbing exit from the 13-man code.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster has reacted to the high-stakes Test by naming the most experienced New Zealand starting lineup since their 2015 World Cup final triumph, boasting 880 combined caps.
Yet, Foster has found room in his squad for 29-year-old Tuivasa-Sheck, a player regarded as a potential candidate to shine at next year’s global tournament.
The fast feet and acceleration of Tuivasa-Sheck lit up Australia’s National Rugby League for a decade before he made the call to pursue his rugby union goal and play for the All Blacks.
“You’ve got to cherish these opportunities, that’s how I see it. This is a dream,” said Tuivasa-Sheck.
“As a competitor or an athlete you want to play on these big stages and if you want to tell yourself ‘I want to be the best in the world’, these are the stages where you get to prove that.”
The former schoolboy rugby star impressed Foster during his debut Super Rugby Pacific season with the Blues and he’s risen further in the coach’s estimation on the back of three weeks of training.
“It’s actually a reward for his effort off the park. Roger has settled in well, he’s a learner,” Foster said.
“It’s a big occasion for him but … he’s an experienced player, he knows about the big stages and he knows you don’t just go there and try to overplay your hand.”
Tuivasa-Sheck played 20 rugby league Tests for the Kiwis and experienced an NRL grand final triumph with the Sydney Roosters. He later moved to the Auckland-based New Zealand Warriors, where he was crowned the NRL’s best player in 2018.
The speedster is set to become the third All Blacks Test player to have previously represented the Kiwis – the most recent was another midfield attacking weapon, Sonny Bill Williams.
Tuivasa-Sheck was impressed by the intensity within the New Zealand camp this week as they seek to rebound from last week’s loss to Ireland in Dunedin and clinch the series.
“I think we get over it quite quickly because this whole organisation is just a well-oiled machine and they’re ready to just get better and figure out what’s next,” he said.
© Agence France-Presse