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Sunday 11 December 2016

Triggs: Blues will get better

New Zealander believes team needs to be at ease with skills

Hayden Triggs pictured at Leinster training yesterday
Hayden Triggs pictured at Leinster training yesterday

There is a nice story doing the rounds that Pat Lam suggested his Connacht players go out, purchase their own rugby ball and bring it with them everywhere they go.

The reason? To make the ball an extension of themselves, in effect their best friend.

It is a tale that immediately brings to mind that photo taken this summer of a host of hurleys resting up against the grey wall of the church at St Kieran's College.

While hurling is a religion in Kilkenny, rugby holds the same fervour in New Zealand and the South Sea Islands.

New Zealander

"I can only speak as a New Zealander," said Leinster lock Hayen Triggs, "but, I know for a fact that if you go to Samoa, like where Pat (Lam) is from, or Tonga or Fiji, they will pass a shell around just to play touch rugby.

"Or, there are five or six of them playing three-on-three with just a bunch of socks."

The post-World Cup hysteria all pointed towards the superior skills of the southern hemisphere nations, especially the finalists New Zealand and Australia.

"In New Zealand, from primary school we are encouraged to play rugby, hockey, basketball, netball, soccer. It is just there," he said.

"Any bit of free time, or bit of sun, we are out playing. It is changing a bit these days with PlayStation and stuff like that, but that's where it all comes from."

The pass-catch rugby culture in New Zealand has been patented and sold throughout the world as their coaches, like Joe Schmidt, Warren Gatland and Samoan Pat Lam, have been exported.

"We focus a wee bit more on skills, to be fair," said the 33-year-old. You will see a kid with a ball walking down the street every day.

"They are just passing it around with their mates as they walk along.

"It's the nature of our people down there to be a bit more ball-friendly."

From the moment Triggs entered Leinster, the coaches were taken with his mastery of the basics of the game.

There were no rough edges that needed to be worked away.

The Maori All Black is tall at 6'7" and a lean machine at 108kilos (17st), not exactly a monster in the trend of those that roam European rugby.

"Look, we're not as big as you blokes up here in New Zealand," he said.

"We get the odd big man, but overall you would be surprised at how (not) big our lads are.

"Saying that, considering their descent, they are quite powerful and fast."

There is a straight-to-the-point levity about his opinion.

What this Leinster side miss in skills, they make up for in other ways.

"They know what they want to do. They have the means. Resource-wise there's nothing they don't have.

"This year being a World Cup was difficult logistically and personnel-wise, but we have come through that in pretty good shape.

"They have goals and desires for the season and a plan how to do that."

When chance came calling for the man who has bounced around New Zealand taking in The Hurricanes, The Highlanders, The Chiefs and The Blues, it was too good an offer to refuse.

"People throw the word 'privilage' around a bit too much but for me it is a privilege to be here as a historically strong successful club in Europe.

"For me, at this stage of my career, the opportunity was just too good to turn down.

"Coming in, it is just a case of 'do as you are asked.'

"I don't have to ask too many questions because they have put the thought into it."

Perhaps, Triggs was convinced by the European powerhouse sell.

Leinster certainly haven't looked at that level yet.

"Look, I wouldn't say they're not the club they used to be," he said.

"Every club changes every year and who is to say we don't win the European Cup and then we can come back and say 'look, they are just as good as they used to be.'

"So we can't say that just yet."

Better times

He holds the opinion that better times are just around the corner.

"Yeah, I think they are building, to be honest," he added.

"The World Cup was a testing time for all clubs. There have been some experiments and we just have to integrate those guys with the established players.

"We are only going to get better. If you look at the games we are just off a step or two, or a pass, or a skill.

"Once we realise that as a playing group and get behind our identity as a group - like, the forwards need to mongrel up a bit more and be comfortable in our own skill - then we will be away."

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