Tasman’s Baby Blacks on a mission
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