Masoe relishing chance to impress
June 1, 2007
Chris Masoe, the All Blacks' jack of all trades, is hoping to master one when he starts at No 8 for the opening rugby test of the year against France here tomorrow.
Since making his test debut in Cardiff in 2005, the loose forward's versatility has ensured he is practically a permanent fixture in the match day 22, with half of his 10 caps earned off the bench.
Given Richie McCaw, Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo comprise the first-choice loose trio, Masoe has had to rely on rotation or injury to remain on the field after the haka.
If that is an irritant the 28-year-old masks his frustrations well, although he is relishing the chance of filling So'oialo's spot at Eden Park because it is realistically the only back row berth even marginally up for grabs.
Masoe started at the back of the scrum against England at Twickenham and South Africa in Pretoria last year with McCaw and Reuben Thorne on the flanks, the same trio being used tomorrow.
As McCaw is the All Blacks skipper and Thorne is most likely to play blindside in Collins' absence, Masoe accepts No 8 is his best chance of accruing more run-on caps.
"I see myself trying to get in there, in that mix," he said ahead of his head-to-head battle with French enforcer Sebastien Chabal.
"With this opportunity to play No 8 I can put pressure on Rodney. That's what I want to do, put pressure on those guys.
"We work together but when I get the opportunity I want to prove I can make the starting 15."
Outings with second division Johnsonville in Wellington club rugby have helped Masoe refocus on the requirements of the link role between backs and forwards and he can also reflect on a solid Super 14 campaign with the struggling Hurricanes after the reconditioning period.
"We (Hurricanes) didn't go that well but my body was real fresh. Last year it was mashed every week."
Should So'oialo return, as expected, to the starting 15 next week and give Masoe some respite from another physical battering, you sense he won't be too disappointed.
"It's good to know I'll be involved in the 22 every week -- and I look forward to every week with the All Blacks whether I'm playing or in the 22."