Farewell to AB mates
Hard-nosed halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow will bow out as an All Black just the way he prefers it – low key, doing his bit for the greater good and surrounded by his mates.
The 26-year-old Waikato and Chiefs No 9 will take a moment at the end of the game against the French XV in Lyon today to soak it all in. It will, in all likelihood, barring injury or the truly bizarre, be his last appearance in an All Blacks jersey.
He won’t get to add to his 25 test caps on this tour unless Aaron Smith or TJ Perenara fall over somewhere between now and the Cardiff finale for 2017. But in a funny sort of way, battling away for a youthful, and distinctly next generation, All Blacks midweek outfit seems a fitting way for this excellent halfback, and even better team man, to say goodbye.
He will join the La Rochelle club in the French Top 14 competition at the end of this tour (he says he still doesn’t know yet whether he will head straight there, or have time to make a quick trip home to grab a few belongings) and the fact that he’s even on this trip after signing his new deal long ago says all you need to know about the esteem with which he is held around the All Blacks.
He is an excellent distributor, fabulous defender and staunch competitor who might well be occupying the backup test position in this his sixth year with the team had it not been for his decision to accept the deal on offer to take his talents to France.
But there are no regrets as he contemplates quite possibly the last hitout as an All Black. He will have his little reflection when the time is right, but it will be brief, and it will be personal, and it will almost certainly end with the abiding thought that he has been so lucky to have experienced what he has.
‘‘We’re in a privileged position be in an All Blacks side,’’ he reflected before the match at Groupama Stadium. ‘‘I’m fortunate to have one last go to be with my mates ... a great bunch of men, a great bunch of young men too who are going to play this game. I never take anything for granted, and cherish every moment.’’
In terms of any reflections that come, he says he has tried not to pre-determine his emotions. ‘‘I try to just stay in the moment and concentrate on what I’ve got to worry about in the match, and whatever happens after that happens.
‘‘I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to have one more tour with all my mates. I’m just taking every day as it comes, trying the best I can to contribute in whatever way I can, and I’m fortunate they’ve decided to give us a run.
‘‘It may be the last time I play with these guys for a while so we’ll go out and try have a bit of fun.’’
Kerr-Barlow smiles when it’s mentioned he will face a quartet of his future la Rochelle team-mates on the field in Lyon. ‘‘We’ll go hard on the field, then we’ll share a handshake and I can maybe ask them a couple of questions after the game.’’
The gritty halfback, who shook off a horrific 2014 knee injury that nearly wrecked his career, said he doesn’t know exactly when he’ll join his new club, but it wasn’t top of his priority list right now.
‘‘My manager has still got to let me know, but I’m not really concentrating on La Rochelle at the moment. I’ve got this game, then the two games after that, and it will come in good time. I’m just enjoying the environment and trying to put my best foot forward.’’
With his mates. Competing. Doing what he loves best.
"I never take anything for granted, and cherish every moment."