New Zealand rugby
Parsons eyes All Blacks call-up
June 11, 2013
James Parsons directs his Blues team-mates, Blues v Highlanders, Super Rugby, Eden Park, Auckland, April 5, 2013
Blues hooker James Parsons is somewhat of a late bloomer © Getty Images
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Establishing himself at the Blues has been hugely satisfying for James Parsons but it's the prospect of an All Blacks Test cap that really excites him.

On Tuesday Parsons will have a chance to prove his worth against international opposition when he captains the Blues in a friendly match against France at North Harbour Stadium.

It marks another significant step in what has been a long and tiresome journey for the North Harbour captain. Waiting four years in the provincial ranks to represent the Eden Park franchise, Parsons finally got a call-up to Pat Lam's wider training squad where he toiled away for another year before being handed a full-time contract.

"Two or three years ago I didn't think this opportunity would come at the Blues and now I'm getting a chance to lead them - it's massive for me and I take a hell of a lot of pride in that," Parsons said.

Considering this is just his first full year of Super Rugby, the 26-year-old hooker is a late bloomer. But a glance at the current crop of players in contention to replace the All Blacks' ageing rakes and it becomes apparent that Parsons is rising at just the right time.

Dane Coles, 26, debuted as a starting All Black in Saturday's series-opening Test against France, while Hika Elliott, 27, is the only other hooker with All Blacks experience capable of playing through to the 2015 IRB World Cup.

However, the latter appears to have fallen off the selection radar after being snubbed for two training camps and selection to face the French.

All Blacks scrum coach Mike Cron has spoken with Parsons about what selectors are looking for. That advice has given him a strong focus on executing his core roles to perfection under pressure.

"They've made it very clear; it's about set piece and core roles. Know your line-outs, know your scrums, get around clean your rucks and make your tackles," he said. "The flashy stuff; they're not interested in. And that's what they base their whole game around - building phases through pressure and creating space."

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan believes in Parsons' potential and recently added him to the Blues core leadership group alongside All Blacks veterans Ali Williams, Piri Weepu, Keven Mealamu and last year's captain, Luke Braid.

As early as 2009 Parsons rejected offers from Super Rugby franchises the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels and says he is slowly reaping the rewards for his loyalty to New Zealand rugby.

With an Irish passport, Parsons also revealed that an invitation to join Dublin-based club Leinster was tempting but insisted the prospect of donning the black jersey is far more appealing.

"It's a dream and I want it," Parsons said of his All Blacks ambitions. "I want that responsibility; I want to be in that team. I've made a choice to put my hand up in New Zealand and I will happily live and die by that choice whether I play for New Zealand or I don't."

The Blues will become the first New Zealand Super Rugby franchise to play against an international team on Tuesday night. Dave Rennie's Chiefs were set to take on Argentina before a sponsorship deal fell through earlier this year.

© Sportal

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