herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

Big Ben: I get the gist of the game

Cheika's advice sealed Leinster move for Union convert Te'o who just needs time

Ben Te'o
Ben Te'o

Ben Te'o is "open" to the possibility of playing for Ireland, even though he holds an English passport.

Why not move to England where he would come onto the radar of coach Stuart Lancaster? "You probably have to ask my manager that one," he smiled.

"I mean he knew I had a passport. But, I don't know why it didn't come about to go there. They told me I could come here, play rugby, just think about the England stuff later.

"I probably didn't come to rugby thinking I'm going to play for England. I didn't think that far ahead. I just wanted to learn, try to establish myself," he offered.

The 27-year-old doesn't know what the future holds. The expectation and presumption that he will translate from League to Rugby is as yet unfounded. He needs time to grow into the game.

"I haven't set any goals. It's early days. I just want to earn the respect of my team-mates, make them think that I should be here, that I'm good enough," he said.

"If I can get into the team, cement a spot, that's a big plus for me. That would be a big achievement. That is as far as I'm looking at the moment".

Originally painted in broad brush strokes as a beast of an inside centre, Te'o is seen by coach Matt O'Connor as a more natural outside centre where he will play in 'you-know-who's' jersey.

"He's a great player. I know what he's done," said the articulate New Zealander.

"But, I think we would have completely different skills sets. I think I bring something different to the table and that's why they brought me here.

"I've been to a couple of clubs. I filled in for guys that were legends in their own right," he said.

"If you're going somewhere trying to be someone else, or fill their shoes, I think you're putting pressure on yourself that you don't need."

There is an under-stated self-confidence about the Kiwi that makes an immediate impression.

"I'm not daunted. I just think it's a challenge. I'm up for it. I'm going to give it everything I've got. I'm not too worried about how things are going to go."

Te'o played rugby for the first time in ten years for Leinster 'A' in the British & Irish Cup at windy Carmarthen on Saturday.

It was an interesting experience, especially at ruck time.

He has much to learn: "A good friend of mine, Israel Folau, has made the transition and even he doesn't know all the rules.

"That will come with experience, you might make mistakes at training and you'll learn from them.

"It is (complex), there are some things I need to scratch up on. Obviously, I get the gist of the game.

"But, there's some little things there that I need to scratch up on because they could come at big moments."

The learning process means it would be unwise to load Te'o with too much pressure, too much information. The big hits will surely come. The details will take time.

Coach Matt O'Connor's playing past straddled both codes and this was important to Te'o when it came to making the move ahead of his PRO12 debut against Edinburgh on Friday night.

"That was a big part of me being comfortable being here, the fact that Matt was a professional league and rugby player," he said.

"He knows my strengths, he knows what I have got to work on. He's going to be patient with me, work with me and simplify things for me.

"Just leading up to this game (against Edinburgh) it'll be a couple of plays, a couple of jobs I need to do and then just play."

Te'o also had conversations with Leinster old boys Lote Tuqiri and Michael Cheika, with the new Australia coach giving him a steer in this general direction.

"He said if you're going to come to Europe, this is the best place to learn how to play rugby. They'll teach you. They've got good people there. That is kind of what sealed it for me.

"I didn't ever expect I was going to come to Ireland. But, I think the pull of coming to Leinster was a big part of that. It's not a holiday. I want to learn the game properly.

"This is the best place to be."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News