All Blacks’ Laulala has much to prove

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

NEW Zealand prop Nepo Laulala will have some­thing to prove when he lines up against France to­day af­ter be­ing told last year that he would never play rugby again.

The 26-year-old tight­head suf­fered a knee in­jury last year that not only in­ter­rupted his 10-test in­ter­na­tional ca­reer but al­most brought the cur­tain down on his play­ing days.

Now the Samoan-born Chiefs front-rower is de­ter­mined to show he’s a bet­ter player than he was be­fore his in­jury.

“It was re­ally tough, I ac­tu­ally didn’t re­ally think I’d get back here,” he ad­mit­ted.

“It didn’t re­ally help be­cause my doc­tor told me he didn’t think I’d play again.

“I had to get over that. It was a tough road back.”

But the de­sire to si­lence the doubters was one of the main mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tors.

“It was a mas­sive in­jury, I think it was one of worst he [the doc­tor] had ever seen – that’s not re­ally a thing you want to hear from your doc­tor.

“I wanted to prove that I could make it back; I wanted to prove that doc­tor wrong; I was re­ally an­gry af­ter that; af­ter that I never saw him again!”

Laulala will be cheered on at the Stade de France by his All Black in­ter­na­tional brother Casey, 35, who now plays his club rugby in Paris for Racing 92 af­ter spells at Cardiff Blues and Mun­ster.

“It’s al­ways good to see Casey. We hardly see him back home. We’ve been catch­ing up the past cou­ple of days,” Nepo Laulala said.

“He was al­ways there for me. He al­ways texts me, gives me lit­tle mes­sages that keep me up. He’s helped me through heaps. He’s part of my main rea­son of choos­ing this path­way, try­ing to make it big.

“He paved the way for my ca­reer. He’s been a big part of my ca­reer, def­i­nitely. He made us be­lieve it’s pos­si­ble to achieve it.

“Grow­ing up on the is­land, we’re very ca­sual there, we don’t re­ally do much, al­most too ca­sual!

“He just made us be­lieve we’re ca­pa­ble of more than we think.”

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen says Laulala will bring mo­bil­ity and ath­leti­cism to his pack against the French, whom the All Blacks beat 24-19 a year ago.

“He’s an­other one who’s got a bit of un­der­stand­ing about what’s needed,” Hansen said. – AFP

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