Tom Taylor says he's always considered himself a first five-eighth and is relaxed about his lack of game time in the pivotal position ahead of his test debut.
And All Black coach Steve Hansen said today goal-kicking and familiarity with the game-plan had tipped the scales in Taylor's favour for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington.
Taylor starts ahead of Colin Slade, who returns to test rugby via the bench two years after playing the last of his 10 tests.
''We think he [Taylor] has the maturity and mental ability to cope with what we are asking him to do and probably the biggest swinger was he kicks goals at about 90 per cent and we think that's important,'' Hansen said when asked about the choice at No 10.
Slade kicked goals at just 68 per cent for the Highlanders during Super Rugby.
Taylor's challenge though is that he has played just one match this year at first five eighth, a friendly against the Hurricanes in June.
The rest of his rugby has been played at either second five eighth or fullback, though Hansen said his presence at All Black training camps meant he was the obvious choice to steer the ship at Westpac Stadium.
''At the camps he's slotted in at 12 and 13 and 10 on a couple of occasions, so he understood what we are trying to do with our patterns. He's come in seamlessly.''
Taylor said despite playing at second five eighth and fullback for much of the past two years, he felt most comfortable with No 10 on his back.
''I've played 10 most of my life really. Only the last couple of years I've played a bit of midfield, but that's just been more about being able to get out on the park really,'' he said.
His biggest challenge was asserting himself, but with many of his Crusaders teammates present he had felt relaxed coming into the squad.
''I need to talk as a ten and get on top of people and tell them what to do, but I also like to lead by my actions, so I mix it up a little bit,'' the 24-year-old said.
''I'm trying not to focus too much to be honest. There is a tendency to overload and play the game in your head. So I'm trying to learn as much as I can, but also to relax as much as I can...
''I'm sure come game time I'll be clear and pretend its a normal game and relax into it.''
His selection in the starting team had capped a ''surreal'' week.
Taylor wasn't aware of injuries to Aaron Cruden (knee) and Beauden Barrett (calf) after the first Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney.
And his former All Black father Warwick clearly hadn't foreseen his son's call up either, away on a school ski trip and out of cell phone reach when the news came through.
''Everyone [in the family is] excited . I don't think dad knows yet, he's on a school ski trip. He gets back Friday afternoon,'' Taylor said. ''I was talking to mum last night and she sent him a letter through one of the staff members at school, so he'll probably find out today.''
Taylor didn't think his dad's test career, Warwick played 24 tests between 1983 and 1988, had added any extra pressure on him to emulate his feats.
And Hansen, who played in the midfield during the same era, said it was unfair to draw too many comparisons.
''Warwick was his own man and played his own style and Tom is his own man as well. There will be idiosyncrasies that are similar, but he has to be judged on his merits and Warwick wouldn't want it any other way.
''Both of them are quiet blokes who just get on with the job. That's one of the things I can see they have in common.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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