Wyatt Crockett welcomes chance to make mark
You'll excuse Wyatt Crockett for not dancing a jig at the prospect of a run of starts at loosehead prop for the All Blacks.
The 31-year-old Cantab has learned to be patient and to roll with the highs and lows of top rugby during a five-year international career that's seen him start just 13 of his 27 tests.
Crockett has spent all of that time wedged firmly behind Tony Woodcock, who has not only played 110 tests, but emerged as one of the very best to have pulled on the black jersey. He's also spent longer than he would have liked engaged in running battles with referees over his scrummaging technique.
But with Woodcock done for the year, Crockett is now the man, starting tomorrow night in Sydney when he will bed down on the loosehead side in the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe opener against the Wallabies.
Yesterday, the genial, 1.93m front-rower was taking it all in his stride when he stopped for a chat shortly before heading to catch his flight to Sydney.
"If I can work really hard on my game over the next few months, hopefully I'll put the performances in I feel like I'm capable of," he said. "It's a good opportunity and I've got to take it.
"I try not to look too far ahead. It's very much about going week to week, preparing well for this week, and getting out there and playing well."
Any frustrations about playing second fiddle to Woodcock were erased by new regulations that bumped up the number of prop reserves. "To get the opportunity each week to put the black jersey on is an honour, whether you're in the reserves or starting."
He says he feels like he has his head round the new scrum procedure - a dominant Crusaders set piece in the Super Rugby final underlined that - and would like to think his referee battles are a thing of the past.
He has certainly come a long way from the Milan debacle against Italy in 2009 when he had to be replaced because of repeated penalties at the set piece.
"I guess you work hard on your technique and try to take the referee out of the equation," he said. "When you do that you're less likely to get penalised.
"But I have to say a lot of time one or two players get singled out at scrum time, maybe someone going well or someone under pressure, but it comes down to those eight men working hard together and whoever works hardest and has the best technique as an eight is going to get the result."
Crocket said his focus tomorrow night would be on the scrum first, but a check-list of other responsibilities second.
And the record win streak?
"We're excited about that challenge, [but] we've got to go out and play well and those sort of things take care of themselves."