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