Been there, done that, shrugs Tkachuk
June 12, 2007
Kevin Tkachuk doesn't quite share the unbridled enthusiasm of Canada's wide-eyed young brigade heading into a potentially embarrassing rugby test against the All Blacks in Hamilton on Saturday.
The fact he's already faced the All Blacks at Melbourne during the 2003 World Cup, a match he had a year to prepare for, has taken some sting out of round two.
Canada's most experienced prop faces a similar scenario at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night, having had about 12 months notice that another thankless task was on his agenda.
"For me, having been there, it doesn't have the same sort of awe-inspiring feeling I suppose," said Tkachuk, who realises his position is one pressure point where the All Blacks are ruthlessly efficient.
"I suppose I'm looking forward to facing the first hit (scrum engagement). I'm not intimidated by it, I'm not thinking about it that way," the 35-cap veteran said.
"I just want to see what it's all about, see if they're as good as they look on film. I'm sure they will be."
Still, Tkachuk, from the rugby backwater of Regina, Saskatchewan, is looking forward to another rare outing against the World Cup favourites.
"For us it's all about challenging yourself and seeing what kind of results you can come up with personally -- and as a team," he said.
He is one of five current squad members named in the 22 to play the World Cup pool game four years ago although tour captain and halfback Morgan Williams never got off the bench.
Ed Fairhurst, since superseded by Williams, and Tkachuk started while loose forward Colin Yukes and inside back Ryan Smith were replacements during New Zealand's 68-6 rout.
Tkachuk locked horns with Dave Hewett and Kees Meeuws that night at the Telstra Dome.
"I kind of expected to play the All Blacks a year before the World Cup because I thought (coach) David Clarke would select his second team seeing it was a game we didn't have a chance of winning," Tkachuk recalled.
"I'd been preparing mentally for it when the time came it was a fantastic experience right from the haka.
"It (the haka) was inspiring and energising for us as well. It took them 20 minutes to get into the game, for a second team we did pretty well."
Tkachuk is now one of Canada's most seasoned pros after taking a journey that started with American football's off-season and progressed to Vancouver, Oxford University, and now the Glasgow Warriors.
"I come from American football and ice hockey country," the 30-year-old said.
"Rugby was something we did in the off-season to stay fit and work on our skills. I fell in love with it straight away.
"(American) Football is very type cast, you only play a certain position and do a certain thing. I never got to touch the ball or make a tackle, I was just blocking."
After making the grade in Canada's rugby nursery on the west coast he gravitated to Oxford University for three years' work and play before heading north across the border to Glasgow.
He has a year left on his contract and is looking forward to playing alongside new signings -- former All Black Daryl Gibson and Samoan international Lome Fa'atau.
For now, though, the All Blacks are his focus during a week where he will take a mentoring role with a largely inexperienced squad -- not that he is concerned about their capabilities.
"We've played some big games -- we played against Wales in front of 75,000 people at the Millennium Stadium last November, we've had some big game experience.
"Hopefully we can take a lot from playing the game, then look at the film and reflect on how we went."
Canada trained without incident yesterday with the tackle bags and defensive screens again getting a solid workout.
"We're mostly focused on defence right now," Tkachuk said.
"The most pressing issue for us is making sure they don't cross our line too many times."