Bateman happy to be back in the middle

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 11:23 05/11/2012
Tim Bateman
Photosport
TIM BATEMAN: "I enjoyed my time at 10 for the Lions but I'm definitely a 12 ... that's where I'm most comfortable and where I think I'm most effective."

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Versatile backline player Tim Bateman is looking forward to returning to the midfield for the New Zealand Maori team's tour of England.

Wellington made use of the 25-year-old's wide range of skills by playing him at first-five for much of the NPC but Bateman suggested he'd be wearing the No 12 jersey on this trip.

"I hope so. I enjoyed my time at 10 for the Lions but I'm definitely a 12 ... that's where I'm most comfortable and where I think I'm most effective," Bateman said.

Maori coach Jamie Joseph has named only Willie Ripia as a specialist No 10 in his squad for the three-match tour. He faces a lot of responsibility given his time away from the game with personal issues.

Bateman backs Ripia to stand tall.

"Myself and Trent (Renata) can both cover 10 but Willie is probably the most experienced 10 in a Maori jersey and probably the most comfortable there. Willie is an out and out first five, I'd say he'd be there the majority of the time," Bateman said.

Having returned from a brief stint in Japan to play for the Hurricanes after starting his Super Rugby career with the Crusaders, Bateman's good form for Wellington has earned him a Maori recall.

He was part of the Maori side that performed so well in 2008 and is eager to immerse himself in this special team again.

"The Maori team has done it very well in the past. They got a great record and play some really exciting rugby. That's probably the thing I'm most excited about - I was part of the team in 2008 and absolutely loved it," he said acknowledging the pressure that comes with this particularly black jersey.

"It's internal pressure and that's a good thing. We know there are a lot of people in New Zealand that look up to this team. It's a team they hold a bit of pride in and we want to do the jersey justice."

The Maori side face an unusual itinerary, playing the famous Leicester Tigers club on November 13, an English Championship Select XV four days later before their "test" against Canada at Oxford University on November 23.

It's going to be a new experience for Bateman and one that has him both excited and anxious.

"I've never been to that side of the world, I suppose it brings different challenges, a different style of game, particularly come up against their club players but they (Leicester) have the benefit of playing together.

"I think a lot will be down to the weather, the field and what they bring on the day.

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"We've got three or four trainings to throw things together before we leave."

- Fairfax Media

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