Luke Romano may only be in the fledgling stages of his All Blacks career but he has set his sights on becoming one of the great locks of southern hemisphere rugby.
A generation of world-class locks from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand is coming to an end with Nathan Sharpe, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Brad Thorn and Ali Williams all having come to the end, or at least the twilight, of their international careers.
These are all players that will be remembered for a long time after the boots have been hung up, but their departures have opened the way for another wave.
Eben Etzebeth already looks like being a star for the Springboks, Sitaleki Timani is the Wallabies' great hope and in New Zealand we have this year seen Romano and Brodie Retallick join Sam Whitelock as the future of the All Blacks second row.
Romano knows there is a long way to go before his name can be mentioned in the same breath as those from the previous generation of great locks, but he has made it his goal to emulate what they achieved in the game.
"You have definitely got to respect what they've done," he told Sunday News.
"To play 100 Super Rugby games and all of those guys have played well over 60 tests for their countries, that's a lot of footy.
"To be doing it year-in, year-out, and with the demands it puts on your body, shows they're true professional athletes.
"I respect them for what they've done because they have been the pinnacle of locks . . .
"It certainly would be nice [to achieve what they did], but you do have to go one game at a time," he added.
With just three locks as opposed to six loose forwards in the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship, there is a hefty workload for Romano, Retallick and Whitelock but Romano doesn't feel it's a daunting task.
"You've got to recover well, manage yourself through the week and, when you get to the game, you can't hold back."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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