Tay­lor must keep cool at Twick­ers

The Press - - Sport - Richard Knowler richard.knowler@stuff.co.nz

Codie Tay­lor doesn’t want to ride his luck at Twick­en­ham.

All Blacks hooker Tay­lor ac­cepts he was for­tu­nate to es­cape pun­ish­ment for his part in an al­ter­ca­tion with Wal­la­bies re­place­ment rake Tolu Latu in Yoko­hama last month, and that he must cur­tail any de­sire to re­tal­i­ate if the English for­wards goad him dur­ing the test on Sun­day morn­ing.

Latu was yel­low carded by French ref­eree Romain Poite for slap­ping Tay­lor on the head dur­ing the Bledis­loe Cup match at Nis­san Sta­dium, a pun­ish­ment that for­mer Wal­la­bies hooker Phil Kearns later said didn’t war­rant him be­ing sin binned.

Latu re­acted after be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of a pow­er­ful shove from Tay­lor, giv­ing Kearns cause to be­lieve the All Blacks get a ‘‘free ride’’ from the of­fi­cials.

That’s not for Tay­lor to de­bate. But he knows that he could have been the one pe­nalised if Latu hadn’t stole the lime­light in the wake of the scuf­fle that erupted after a scrum.

‘‘Look­ing back I de­served a penalty (to go against me) but it was never my in­ten­tion to go out there and do any of that,’’ Tay­lor said.

‘‘It was just one of those mo­ments when you re­act to some­thing. And yeah, look­ing back it was prob­a­bly pretty dumb.

‘‘I don’t have any­thing against him. It was just one of those mo­ments. I was just lucky with that one, my­self.’’

Tay­lor wasn’t of­fended by Latu’s hand­i­work, ei­ther: ‘‘It was just an open hand, noth­ing too crazy. He could have done worse.’’ The 27 year old with 39 test caps is now pre­par­ing to con­front an­other fire­brand in Eng­land co-cap­tain Dy­lan Hart­ley, who is six tests shy of play­ing 100 games for his adopted coun­try.

Tay­lor is aware of what is com­ing from Hart­ley and his pack, and if he gets dragged into an al­ter­ca­tion with them the lo­cal sup­port­ers will de­mand jus­tice from ref­eree Jerome Garces.

‘‘Phys­i­cal­ity, a lit­tle bit of nig­gle,’’ is what Tay­lor ex­pects from the English for­wards. ‘‘They love their set-piece – ev­ery­thing you would ex­pect from a north­ern hemi­sphere team. They re­ally play the per­cent­ages well.

‘‘I sup­pose you just have to be aware of the fact that you are play­ing a high-pres­sure test in front of about 80,000 English peo­ple. That alone has its own sort of pres­sures and ex­ter­nal fac­tors.’’

There will be a num­ber of firsts for Tay­lor this week­end. He has never played against Eng­land or at Twick­en­ham. His only ap­pear­ance in a test in Lon­don was when the All Blacks beat Namibia 58-14 at Olympic Sta­dium at the 2015 World Cup.

The All Blacks for­wards sharpen their re­solve for all matches by push­ing the lim­its in terms of phys­i­cal­ity at pre-game ses­sions. In other words, when they have ‘live’ train­ings the men act­ing as the op­po­si­tion – the so­called dirt track­ers – are en­cour­aged to be tena­cious and aggressive.

‘‘Some­times I think the coaches tell the op­po­si­tion to get stuck in a lit­tle bit harder, and if you don’t re­act the right way you are get­ting put off your game,’’ Tay­lor says. ‘‘So it def­i­nitely ben­e­fits us as a team to stay calm in those times.’’

The trick, of course, is to not al­low tem­pers to fray to the point where blows are traded. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons that would be detri­men­tal to the col­lec­tive cause.

‘‘With­out be­ing a dick about it, I think every­one wants to be the best in this team. And that means they are just go­ing to go as hard as they can.’’

GETTY IMAGES

Codie Tay­lor is well aware he needs to con­trol his ag­gres­sion against Eng­land at Twick­en­ham on Sun­day (NZ time).

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