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Is Andre Taylor ready for All Blacks step up?

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 30/04/2012
Chiefs
FULLBACK FLAIR: "The moment I set big goals I tend to focus on them too much and it puts pressure on me," Andre Taylor.

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Andre Taylor has heard the drums, but the Hurricanes fullback says he's dancing to his own beat this season.

The 24-year-old continued his break-out season with a blistering first-half try during the Hurricanes' 33-14 loss to the Chiefs on Saturday night.

Gliding runs like his 50-metre effort in Hamilton have become almost weekly viewing this year as he has used pace and balance to break through the competition's most watertight defences.

With seven tries he is Super Rugby's equal leading try scorer, with Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo, and suddenly Taylor is being touted as a possible All Black.

It is uncharted waters and there were signs of nerves during the Hurricanes' loss to the Crusaders.

Which is why Taylor's latest effort, poised and assured under the pressure of expectation, was perhaps his most significant, and not only for his try.

His defence and decision-making were sound, uncluttered and decisive, his ball retention high and his line-breaking ability intact.

Speaking after the match he put it down to a simple approach and the calming presence of team-mate Cory Jane.

"I don't set big, big goals. I set them week to week, and try to just play footy," Taylor said. "The moment I set big goals I tend to focus on them too much and it puts pressure on me. I like to just go in, relax as much as I can and do the job.

"I don't [get too nervous]. I like to chill out during the day, and once the game comes around you are there to do a job.

"I basically love getting the ball in my hands and I love scoring tries. I'm going to continue to try and do that.

"I'll just carry on and it really helps me having CJ there, keeping me relaxed."

And like Jane, Taylor appears to have the gift of shrugging off his errors.

"You know it's not going to happen for you every week. You are going to get pressured, you are going to get shut down at times," he said.

"There are 14 other guys on the field just as good as me. It's just going my way at the moment."

But while Taylor's not the type to talk himself up, or sit down and write out his ambitions, he is open about his desire to play for the All Blacks sooner rather than later.

"I've just come out knowing this year is crucial to me," he said.

"There's a lot happening at the end of the year, it's always good to have it [the All Blacks] in the back of your mind.

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"It is my dream, but I'm here to do the job for the Canes week by week first and whatever happens after that happens."

His form is not out of the blue. He made his Manawatu debut in 2006 while still at Palmerston North Boys' High School, has represented New Zealand Maori and had a strong season in a struggling Hurricanes side last year.

Yet he will still need a sustained finish to the Super Rugby season to break into the All Blacks.

It would be a big call for him to force his way into the squad for the June tests.

Fullback rightly belongs to Israel Dagg, Jane is surely the right wing, while Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui and Hosea Gear are all World Cup winners.

And there is, of course, Highlanders custodian Ben Smith too, but it is impossible not to wonder how Taylor's X-factor would transfer to the test arena.

- Fairfax Media

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