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Bolt from the blue shocks Chiefs hooker Harris

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 13/05/2014

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BOLTER: Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris has been named in the All Blacks training squad ahead of the three-test series against England.

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Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris' head was spinning after he found out about his inclusion in the All Blacks training squad.

The 22-year-old from Te Puke was named yesterday as one of 35 players to attend two camps ahead of next month's three-test series against England, although Harris did have  a few days to digest his shock inclusion.

''I actually found out through the Chiefs squad on Friday night after the game [against the Blues in New Plymouth],'' he said, before receiving yesterday's text. 

''It was pretty cool to be announced in front of friends and family at the Chiefs.

''After the game, I was pretty shell-shocked to be honest. I had to sit down for a wee bit. All the boys got back on the bus and my father was waiting outside for me, and I said 'Oh dad, I've been named in the All Blacks squad'. And he was pretty shocked.

''I've sort of been keeping it pretty quiet, I had a family function down in Taranaki after the game, so I just sort of let some of the immediate family know, and sort of kept it under the hat. But obviously a few people have told other people, and word gets around.''

It's an unbelievably meteoric rise for the 1.86m, 105kg Harris, who has climbed the ranks through Bay of Plenty and the New Zealand under-20s.

At the beginning of this season, he wasn't even named in the Chiefs wider training group  but came in  after Hika Elliot was ruled out for the season with a neck injury. With Mahonri Schwalger also troubled by niggles, and Rhys Marshall's throwing off the mark, Harris made impact off the bench, and has started the last two games for the two-time defending champions.

What's also impressive is that Harris only began playing hooker in his final year at school, having previously been a Noth8 or blindside flanker.

After being part of the All Blacks' hooker apprentice scheme last season, Harris had no further contact with the coaches.

''They must have liked me somehow, so it's good to see,'' said Harris, who admitted he hadn't been working on anything in particular to try to get him nte get into a black jersey, though his lineout throwing - which is honed by drills which involve a basketball hoop-style setup - is thought to be key.

''It's always in the back of your mind, you always want to be an All Black. I was just more concentrating with the Chiefs and getting a bit more game time and getting a few starts under my belt.''

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With the Chiefs having a bye week, Harris will tonight pay his mates a visit at the Te Puke Sports club.

Although a test debut may  not be far away, Harris said he was determined to keep working hard until it materialised.

''I know that I've got a lot to work on, just making sure I'm doing those extras. I'm keeping my head down and my feet grounded, so if I do get an opportunity, I'll be definitely grabbing it with both hands.''

- Waikato Times

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