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ABs fire still burns in Blade

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ON THE COMEBACK: Hurricanes loose forward Blade Thomson (with ball) is looking to an injury-free Super Rugby season after battling several dislocations of his right shoulder. He is not back to full-contact training yet but is not far away. Fellow Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 old boy Isaiah Walker-Leawere is also recovering from a shoulder problem. Pictures by Paul Rickard

THE black jersey continues to be an inspiration for injury-plagued Hurricanes forward Blade Thomson.

The former Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 squad member, who is in town training with his Super Rugby teammates, says 2018 is an important year after dislocating his right shoulder three times in the past two seasons.

“I’ve spent the past two full seasons in rehab . . . so yeah, this is a big season for me, but I’m feeling good and looking forward to an injury-free year,” said the 27-year-old, who was being tipped to make the ABs before his injury issues.

“It was frustrating, that’s for sure, but you have to accept injuries are part of all sports. I’m not doing full-contact stuff just yet but I’m close to it, and like the rest of the boys, I’m hungry for more Super Rugby success after missing out last year.”

With former Canes star Victor Vito now playing in France, the Hurricanes will look to Thomson to fill the No.8 role.

“Blade’s been unlucky with injuries but we see him as a No.8,” said forwards coach John Plumtree. “He’s a good athlete, good at set-pieces, has a fantastic offload around the edge of the field, which suits our style, and he’s a good student of the game.”

Thomson helped Gisborne Boys’ High to top-four secondary school success in 2007, was a member of the New Zealand under-20 team who won the world cup in 2010 and was a New Zealand Maori international.

He is hungry to take that to the next level and resurrect his All Black chances.

“The goal has to be the ABs. Ask any rugby player in New Zealand on a scale of 1 to10 what it means to make the ABs and they’ll tell you it’s 11. I’m no different.

“But first things first. I’ve got to get back to playing regularly for the Canes, and playing well. If I can do that, who knows? It’s up to the national selectors.

“But there’s a lot of good footballers in New Zealand who want to play for the ABs.

Isaia Walker-Leawere

“After making the Super Rugby final in 2015, winning it in 2016, then losing in the semifinals last year, everyone at the franchise is hungry to make this a good season.”

Hurricanes skipper and All Black hooker Dane Coles said Thomson “has definite All Black potential”.

“He’s had a few setbacks but he’s highly rated and not just at the Canes,” said Coles. “He’s not just a good footballer; he’s a good bloke”.

While Thomson has the ABs in his sights, another Gisborne Boys’ High first 15 old boy – lock Isaia Walker-Leawere — is happy “to listen and learn” from his more experienced Hurricanes teammates.

“I was with the squad as injury cover last season so I’m still learning and growing as a player,” said the 20-year-old member of the Junior ABs team who won the u20 world cup in Georgia last year.

“The senior players are a good bunch and I played with a lot of the other guys at age group level, and against them for Boys’ High,” said Walker-Leawere, who is also recovering from a shoulder problem.

“I’m getting more confident and I’m ready to take whatever chances come my way this year.”

Plumtree said Walker-Leawere was probably six weeks away from playing “but he’s a young lad, one of a number we have who are outstanding prospects”.

While his teammates had some fun yesterday before getting into serious training, Walker-Leawere spent the afternoon running.

“I’m not ready for contact work but I need to keep the fitness up to be ready if I get a call-up.”

Source: RUGBY by John Hill