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Berquist fights off the blues

LATE in Leinster's PRO 12 league match against Dragons, a freak knee-on-knee collision saw Mat Berquist stretchered from the field with a fractured patella.

The initial prognosis was a lay-off until the New Year.

For an ambitious professional sportsman who had moved hemispheres to further his career, it was incredibly frustrating.

But dejection and self-pity are not the 28-year-old's style and earlier this week he made a further positive step in his rehabilitation when he started applying more standing pressure on the leg.

Further tests over the coming weeks should give a clearer indication as to when he can regain full fitness, but he is on course for a return and all things going well he hopes to pull on a blue shirt in the opening weeks of the New Year.

It's a light at the end of an initially dim tunnel.

"It has been a hugely frustrating time if I'm honest because since my career started I've only missed the odd week, here and there, through injury," Berquist said.

"So for this to come so early in my Leinster career was a blow, but I chose to try to take a positive out of it and I'm confident that I will emerge from this test of character stronger for the experience."

Injury aside, the out-half has been bowled over by the support that he has received thus far by both the medical team and his team-mates. Indeed, the new surroundings have impressed upon him the size of the club.

"Having been on the sidelines for the last few weeks I've really gotten to see at first hand the level of support that Leinster has and it's far more than anything the teams have back in New Zealand," he revealed.

"There's a really good family feel around the RDS and there were thousands of young supporters enjoying themselves at the 'Kids Takeover' day a few weeks back at the Connacht game.

"That was awesome. There's also a hardcore in the terraces either side of the dugout who are really vocal, so there's something for everyone inside the ground.

"It's great to see the team going so well after a challenging start with so many players unavailable, which shows that there's strength in depth in the squad.

"Anyone who I've met away from the games has been hugely supportive and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to repay that faith soon."



decline

For now Berquist is enjoying his native land's march to the World Cup final. On Sunday morning he will arise and decline the invitations (or the temptations!) to frequent an early house or gather with friends.

He will stick to the same routine that has served his nerves well thus far in the preceding rounds and enjoy the freedom of his home as France take on the All Blacks at Eden Park, the home of rugby in New Zealand. "So far I've watched the games from the comfort of my own home because you can yell at the TV.

"New Zealand are favourites and as such they have to concentrate on themselves and on their own performance," he revealed.

"The whole country went into panic mode when Dan (Carter) was first ruled out and then (Colin) Slade, but Aaron Cruden has displayed real mettle to step up into the team from nowhere really.

"For a young fella at the age of 22, he has really impressed me with the character that he has shown and he has benefitted from having so many familiar heads around him from (his Super 15 club) the Hurricanes," added the former Highlanders and Crusaders No 10.

"Everyone knows that France haven't hit their top form to date, but because of the history between the two countries in the competition -- and those two heartbreaking defeats in 1999 and 2007 -- the All Blacks know that they can't underestimate them.

"If New Zealand can play with the kind of composure and structure which they displayed last weekend against the Wallabies, then I don't think that will allow the French in. We need our forwards to dominate again and I think that the backs have shown that they can be elusive and kill off teams.

"If I was a betting man I'd tip the All Blacks to win by 10 points because I'm really expecting France to bring their 'A' game this week. I think that if we can lift it (the performance) again then we will win, but it will be an exciting game for sure."

Berquist took the opportunity during the gap in the calendar last week to travel to what he hopes will be the first of a number of excursions across Ireland and Europe with his girlfriend Donika. The location?

"Well typical of fate, it had to be Paris didn't it?

"My ability to walk around was curtailed a bit with the crutches, but on a positive note they came in handy because it means that we could skip the queues!



hammering

"Thankfully I wasn't expected to do too much shopping on this trip -- or stand around watching Donika shop -- and she took pity on me this time but I reckon the credit card will take a bit of a hammering next time!

And Berquist hopes that his brief sojourn in Paris will be a symbolic prelude to a world title.

For the people from 'the land of the long white cloud' believe that the dark clouds which have hung over the islands for 24 years are finally about to clear.