Lima’s joy at baby Milla

Sunday News - - RUGBY - MARC HIN­TON

says. ‘‘I pinch my­self now just think­ing how good it is to be back around the boys. This en­vi­ron­ment def­i­nitely brings the best out in me. When you’ve got the best play­ers in the world around you, there’s no choice but to go up an­other level.’’

Mil­ner-Skud­der knows he has got his chance through a set­back to Dagg. Just as Dagg got his op­por­tu­nity in 2016 through his ab­sence.

‘‘I feel for him,’’ he says. ‘‘He’s It’s a shame to see him in­jured, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back.’’

Still, the jink­ing wing was rapt to be part of such a spe­cial per­for­mance last week against the South Africans.

‘‘We’ve talked about play­ing what we see, com­mu­ni­cat­ing that space and be­ing able to ex­e­cute. The op­por­tu­ni­ties were there but the way we ex­e­cuted was re­ally good. And be­ing out on the edge watch­ing it all un­fold, I was kinda buzzing out at the skill level.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing is more en­joy­able when we’re play­ing well and the boys are trust­ing their abil­ity and back­ing their in­stincts.’’

Of course, in the All Blacks minds re­fo­cus quickly. They had their is­sues with Ar­gentina in New Ply­mouth, trail­ing 22-15 early in the sec­ond spell, and Mil­ner-Skud­der an­tic­i­pates an even tougher foe back home. The ab­sence of one or two heavy­hit­ters will also sharpen the clar­ity. ALL Black Lima Sopoaga has wel­comed his first child into the world, and de­clared the sac­ri­fice in miss­ing a rare test start a no­brainer.

The High­landers and South­land first five-eighths and part­ner Miriam yes­ter­day wel­comed baby Milla into the world.

Sopoaga was a late with­drawal from the All Blacks’ trip to Ar­gentina for next week­end’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship clash against the Pumas, re­placed by Beau­den Bar­rett who had orig­i­nally been slated for a rare week off.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen con­firmed on Fri­day be­fore fly­ing out of Auck­land for Buenos Aires that Sopoaga would al­most cer- tainly join them in Cape Town for the fol­low­ing week­end’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship fi­nale against the Spring­boks.

‘‘If I have to wait an­other 799 days to start a test match ... I tell you what, the gift I was blessed with to­day is well worth it,’’ said Sopoaga on Twit­ter.

On In­sta­gram, Sopaga posted a photo of his new­born with this mes­sage: ‘‘For all the things my hands have held the best by far is you. Wel­come to the world Milla, your Mum & I Love and adore you.’’

Sopoaga would have started at No 10 for the All Blacks in Ar­gentina had he made the trip, which would have been his first ap­pear­ance in the run-on XV since he started his test de­but against the Spring­boks in Jo­han­nes­burg on July 25, 2015.

His 10 test ap­pear­ances since then have all been off the bench.

Bar­rett said on Fri­day he had been fully pre­pared for the late callup, which came on Thurs­day night, and sup­ported Sopoaga in his de­ci­sion to pri­ori­tise for his baby’s ar­rival.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously fam­ily comes first and it’s ex­cit­ing for Lima,’’ Bar­rett said.

‘‘If I was in his po­si­tion that’s ex­actly where I’d want to be ex­pect­ing my first child.’’

I pinch my­self now just think­ing how good it is to be back around the boys.’ NEHE MIL­NER-SKUD­DER

Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der crosses for one of his two tries in the 57-0 de­mo­li­tion of the Spring­boks at Al­bany.

New fa­ther Lima Sopoaga.

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