No love lost in key NZ Super Rugby clash
Having once donned the same old school tie and being an All Blacks team-mate with Brodie Retallick will mean zilch for Luke Romano tomorrow night.
Last month the two locks made their international debuts against Ireland and, during the third test in Hamilton, when Retallick replaced Sam Whitelock, they worked alongside each other for the first time.
That the pair locked arms in the scrum for the last 24 minutes might make a nice anecdote for the Christchurch Boys' High School history books but Romano isn't concerned about such trivia.
He, like his Crusaders team-mates, are hell-bent on earning a win against the Chiefs in Hamilton to ensure their Super playoff hopes are still warm, ahead of the final-round home match against the battling Force.
In an age where players pore over laptops to study opponents, Romano is familiar with Retallick's on-field foibles but gained a closer insight during their stint with the All Blacks. Romano, 26, didn't room with the 2.04m giant Retallick, who is five years younger but they got to know each other by mixing socially.
"Being a fellow lock you have a bit to do with him at training and that sort of thing – you know, running the lineouts and looking at opposition. He's a good character," Romano said.
"Off the rugby field, I've had a few good yarns with him and he likes playing his cards as well, so we've had a few games of those. He's a good sort."
Tomorrow night that friendly banter around the card table will count for little, he added.
"Every game is like that. You might be mates off the field but when you are playing a game on the footy field it is all sort of forgotten. It is a big clash, there certainly won't be any love lost."
Despite attending the same secondary school, they had little to do with each other until selected in Steve Hansen's All Blacks squad. At Boys' High Romano played only for the third XV while Retallick, North Canterbury born-and-bred, made the firsts but was not wanted for the Canterbury academy squad.
"That's the only thing that really connects back to here, that we went to the same school together," said Romano, who was born in Nelson but moved south in his latter years.
Retallick headed to the Hawke's Bay in 2010 but will represent Bay of Plenty this season. In his debut season with the Chiefs he has proved a revelation.
"Yes, he's very mobile. He's got a big frame on him. He certainly gets around the paddock and can move bodies at the ruck as well," Romano says. "He's going good this season."
Romano and Retallick play different styles.
While the former has good handling skills and can be a potent ball carrier – a major reason why Hansen wanted him in his squad – the Chiefs lock, who is listed at weighing 2kg more at 117kg, has garnered respect for his high workrate and thirst for hitting breakdowns.
"They have been like that all year, really. Their tight five really enjoys getting around the field and hitting those rucks," Romano said. "Their loosies are very good as well, very good foragers for the ball."
The Chiefs have made three changes to their forward pack, with loosehead prop Sona Taumalolo, openside flanker Sam Cane and No8 Alex Bradley starting.