Rookie All Blacks hooker Dane Coles has been too overwhelmed by minor details to ponder the prospect of making his test debut against Scotland.
Coles seems likely to start from the bench at Murrayfield on Monday (NZ time) and follow the smooth transitions made by some of this year's fellow newcomers in flanker Sam Cane, first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and prop Charlie Faumuina, who were all eased in to the international arena from the reserves.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster downplayed the strategy of injecting young players later in a contest - possibly when the game is safe - rather than throwing them into the action from the outset.
"That's not always the case," Foster said. "Sometimes when they are on the bench they find themselves on pretty early. If you look at Beauden Barrett he was on after 20-minutes in his first test against Ireland. You never quite know.
"We don't go in and try and introduce all our new players via the bench. Ultimately at selection time it's what's best for the team."
The All Blacks' first outdoor training session in cold and wet conditions in Edinburgh today gave Coles a premonition of the major lift in intensity that will be required, should he debut against the Scots.
Test rugby won't be comparable to anything he has experienced, but if his aggressive approach is anything to go by, there are little doubts he will handle the step up.
"I might have to watch myself a little bit. I don't want to get sin binned, but I'll go out with the same intensity and give it a crack," he said.
Four days into his maiden All Blacks tour, Coles is already aware of the meticulous preparation that goes into a test week. Off the training paddock, his head is still spinning as he comes to terms with the reality of the situation.
"I've been like the new kid on the block at school. It's been overwhelming the first couple of days just trying to get my head around the fact I'm actually here on an All Black tour," he said.
Along with mountains of homework that comes with being a new All Black there is also a strict schedule comprising of meeting times and specific clothing requirements.
Cane has been involved in the All Blacks since June but he still fears being caught out.
"You check the day sheet every half-an-hour to make sure you aren't late for anything and you also check the uniform sheet. You don't want to be the guy wearing the wrong gear," he chuckled.
"As well as that you are also 15-minutes early to every meeting."
Only when Coles first pulls on the black jersey will he feel like he truly belongs.
"16 or two will do," he said of the preferred number.
"We haven't been given any indication. If I don't get on this week I might next week. When that opportunity comes it's going to be a pretty proud moment."
Thankfully for Coles he has two veterans - Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore - to turn to for any advice.
"They are legends," he said of his new mentors. "They've done the jersey proud. I've been trying to feed off them and get into their brains to see if I can pick up things. They've been very good to me."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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