New Zealand Rugby
Thomson hopes to make impact
ESPNscrum Staff
July 28, 2011
New Zealand's Brad Thorn and Adam Thomson, All Blacks training session, Carisbrook, Dunedin, June 18, 2010
Thomson will add to his 18 caps on Saturday against South Africa © Getty Images

Adam Thomson hopes his versatility across the back-row will pay dividends in his bid to be included in Graham Henry's final 30-man squad for the World Cup.

The 29-year-old Highlanders loose forward was handed a surprise start at the back of the scrum for the All Blacks clash against South Africa in Wellington on Saturday. After impressing on the blindside flank against Fiji in Dunedin last Friday, Thomson has been moved to accommodate Jerome Kaino's return to the starting 15, and pushing last week's No 8 Liam Messam to the reserves bench.

Thomson admitted being surprised when he got the nod to make his first international start in the role to add a third number to the shirts already in his wardrobe acclaiming: "This is the last jersey for the collection."

Aside from the novelty factor of running on to the Westpac Stadium turf with a new number on his back, Thomson said there was much for him to gain personally from putting in a good showing in an unfamiliar role against the Springboks.

"If I can go out there and perform this weekend at No.8 it is a real string to my bow to be able to play three loose forward positions in the World Cup year," Thomson said. "It is pretty important to have a loose forward who is versatile this year."

With regular No.8 Kieran Read given more time away from the side after a taxing Super Rugby campaign with the Crusaders, Thomson - who will play his 19th test - has the opportunity to stake a claim to be the loose forwards reserve for the World Cup.

"Loose forwards are really about the trio these days ... Richie (McCaw) is obviously a good ball carrier and is superb at the breakdown and Jerome (Kaino) offers the big physical edge so I'm just trying to complement those loosies and make sure that I do my job right."

The rangy Thomson's ability to get around the park has never been in doubt, but this season he has added an aggressive side to his game which has helped him regain his spot in the All Blacks after being overlooked for the Tri-Nations and end of season tour last year.

"I've got some strengths in some areas and perhaps the thing I needed to bring up to speed was the physicality," Thomson said. "I thought if I could add that to my game then I'm starting to get quite rounded as a player.

"A lot of it is technique and it is a mindset as well. It started during Super Rugby and I'm obviously trying to continue that into the test arena."

The All Blacks have a settled loose forwards combination and while Thomson concedes it is no easy task to split the triumvirate, it will not stop him having a crack. "They've performed well as a trio and really established themselves and it'll be hard to break in there. My role is to grab those opportunities with the chances I get and really put pressure on them.

"The All Black jersey is not a given thing -- you don't get your name on it. Whether I break into the three or not, putting pressure on them will make them play better and overall that's what we want for the All Blacks."

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