Tas­man’s Baby Blacks on a mis­sion

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - WHAT’S ON - TIM O'CON­NELL

Last time he vis­ited the north­ern hemi­sphere, Le­ices­ter Fain­gaanuku faced his great­est fear.

‘‘I found out my big weak­ness was the air tur­bu­lence when the plane goes up and down.’’

Now free of flight anx­i­ety and fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his brother Tima, Fain­gaanuku will join fel­low Tas­man player Jamie Spowart in the New Zealand Un­der-20 side for the World Cup in France.

One year out of Nel­son Col­lege, Fain­gaanuku said the change from schools rugby to ju­nior in­ter­na­tional had been an ex­cit­ing gear shift.

‘‘I do miss the Nel­son Col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially play­ing down there on the front field and with some of your best mates that you’ve grown up with.

‘‘It’s noth­ing new com­ing here in some ways, I’m start­ing to build that bond with mates around you and play­ing for en­joy­ment, which is the one rea­son that I con­tinue play­ing.’’

Tima was a mem­ber of the NZ ti­tle-win­ning side of 2017.

Apart from a few point­ers about what to ex­pect at the tour­na­ment and the men­tal tough­ness re­quired, Fain­gaanuku said there was lit­tle else his big brother could teach him about the de­sire and po­ten­tial to do well on the world stage.

‘‘Be­ing se­lected is a great hon­our but also a lot of weight on your shoul­ders, rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try and your fam­ily,’’ Fain­gaanuku said.

‘‘It’s noth­ing to take lightly so I know the boys are tak­ing this with two hands and are look­ing for­ward to the jour­ney’’

While the World Cup will be Spowart’s first trip to Eu­rope, Fain­gaanuku pre­vi­ously at­tended a sevens tour­na­ment in Eng­land to cel­e­brate Rugby School’s 450th an­niver­sary last year.

The New Zealand squad have been in camp at Mount Maun­ganui since Sun­day ahead of their de­par­ture for France on Thurs­day.

Wales, Aus­tralia and Ja­pan loom as New Zealand’s op­po­nents in pool play. How- ever, Spowart said the coach­ing team headed by Craig Philpott had em­pha­sised ev­ery team had to be seen as a threat to their ti­tle chances.

‘‘Coach has made it pretty clear that we’re not think­ing about back­ing it up.

‘‘We’re just fo­cus­ing on one game at a time, and for me as some­one who’s been called up as one of the new fel­las in the team, it’s just about do­ing my role and tak­ing any op­por­tu­nity.’’

Hav­ing had some game-time at the re­cent Ocea­nia tour­na­ment in Aus­tralia, Spowart said with the help of his Tas­man team­mate, he was quickly find­ing his feet in the New Zealand side.

‘‘I’m just tak­ing it as it comes - it does feel like I’ve cracked it, do­ing things like me­dia in­ter­views.

‘‘Hav­ing some­one like Le­ices­ter there makes the en­vi­ron­ment much eas­ier - es­pe­cially when we were play­ing Aus­tralia I was on one wing, he was on the other, plus we’re roomies too, which helps.’’


Tas­man duo Jamie Spowart, left, and Le­ices­ter Fain­gaanuku will de­part for France this week as part of the New Zealand un­der-20 rugby side. Le­ices­ter Fain­gaanuku

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