Adam Thomson gets another chance to nail a place in the All Blacks starting lineup. Toby Robson reports.
Adam Thomson finally relents. He's been doing the best to extol the virtues of those noble forward notions of hard graft, core roles, and that oh so crucial word, physicality.
But what you really love is running out wide and scoring tries, right?
Thomson's smile betrays him before he breaks into laughter. "Yeah, it is what I enjoy most, but I'll put those in my back pocket this week."
And so, Thomson finds himself again challenged to tailor his game to the unforgiving and brutal world of test rugby after a knee injury to Victor Vito.
"I've been around long enough to know what I need to do," he said. "It's test match rugby, it's not Super Rugby. I need to adjust my game. Things you get away with at Super Rugby you don't at this level.
"I guess at Super Rugby you try and do a lot more than your position requires and when you come into the All Blacks, the beauty of it is you have world-class players around you, so you just do your job.
"For me that's lead the defence, be physical at the breakdown and grab turnovers when turnovers are there, carry hard and that's really all you have to do. Anything else is a bonus.
"For the Highlanders, the vision widens a bit more and you try to cover a bit more and at test match you can't really do that.
"I try to narrow the focus a lot, do those core skills well. I'm an option at lineout and loose forwards clearly tackle, they ball carry and work at the breakdown.
"If I can nail those things and be 100 per cent effective at those tasks, then things like hanging out wider and being on the end of the chain, if those opportunities open up later I can grab those."
Which is where Thomson caves to his love of open spaces. And who would argue after watching him tearing up the Super Rugby competition earlier this season.
There were times when it seemed the former sevens representative was on both sides of the park as he tackled, ran, kicked, passed and scored almost at will.
The Otago man has done a pretty decent job during his 25 tests, but never really nailed down any of the three loose forward positions, starting just 15 times. After a long battle for the blindside role with Jerome Kaino, Thomson gets an early chance in Christchurch to press his claims.
The 30-year-old Highlander has become one of the more affable athletes around, as entertaining in person as he is on an insightful and often funny Twitter account.
He's quick to say he'd prefer not to get his chance through injury, but determined to put his best foot forward for a starting spot after a bright cameo in Auckland, where he scored his fifth test try.
"It's never the way you want to get a jersey, Victor's a good mate and you don't want to see guys get injured, but it's an opportunity for me to grab," he said. "I knew we were going to have a battle for the spot just like Jerome and I did. It just means I get my shot early this week, so I've got to take it."
AT A GLANCE
Name: Adam Thomson
Born: March 23, 1982, in Ashburton
Physical: 1.96m, 110kg
Position: Loose forward
School: Christchurch Boys' High School
Club: University (Dunedin)
Test debut: All Blacks v Ireland, Wellington, June 2008
Career: 25 tests, 5 tries
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