Uncapped second-row Dominic Bird admits it is “exciting” to be on the eve of his All Blacks debut against Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.
Uncapped second-row Dominic Bird admits it is “exciting” to be on the eve of his All Blacks debut against Japan.
Bird, who lifted the ITM Cup title with Canterbury last weekend, is set to make his first appearance, alongside Frank Halai, in the starting line-up.
Two more uncapped players – back-row Luke Whitelock and tighthead Jeff Toomaga-Allen – should come off the bench and Bird is thrilled.
“It's a bit nerve-wracking, the first All Blacks game and getting that All Black jersey is exciting,” the lock said ahead of the international meeting.
“It's really an honour to come in and get a game straight away. I'm chuffed.”
Head coach Steve Hansen has hailed Bird as a special talent and believes he will add a lot, and could have done earlier but for injury problems.
“We would have picked him in June,” he said.
“Whilst it seems like he's had a quick rush into the team, he's had to wait and work hard. He had a bit of adversity in June and he's coped with that mentally really well and he's come back, which is pleasing. We're confident he will do a job for us and only get better and better and put some real pressure on the other guys who are performing really well at the moment.”
He added: “He's an athlete. So not only is he tall, he's co-ordinated. He's got physical attributes we like in the core role so he can be physical. He doesn't mind hitting rucks.”