Tom Taylor happy at fullback for Canterbury
He might be learning on the job, but Tom Taylor is presenting the image of a seasoned professional in his new role at fullback for Canterbury.
Shoved in the deep end and into a position he had only played once before, Taylor has eased into the role in his customary no-fuss fashion, much the same as he did when filling in for Dan Carter at first-five for the Crusaders.
The natural first-five clearly has the No 10 jersey closest to his heart, but he's revelling in a chance to try something new.
“It's been a bit of a learning experience these last couple of games, but I have actually been really enjoying it," he said.
“Obviously it was a big blow to lose Sean [Maitland], but it's been a good opportunity to have a bit of fun and open up a few different aspects of my game.
“Playing there you begin to really understand what puts a fullback under pressure, so I've got no doubt it is going to help my game even further."
Before his shift to the back against Auckland last week, Taylor, 23, had only ever played fullback once, last year against Otago, so it's relatively new territory.
But he's thrown himself into the role and is starting to reap the rewards as he earns accolades from around the country for his efforts.
“Being a 10 you spend a bit of time back there positionally anyway, and the kicking game comes pretty naturally.
“The ball-carrying aspect has been the biggest learning, we play an expansive game and I'm involved in a lot of wide breakdowns and collisions so it's been exciting to work on those different aspects.
“I'm still finding my way there a bit but I've been getting a lot of help from the boys."
A standout positive from the shift to fullback for Taylor has been his ability to assume the role of first receiver when Canterbury are on attack.
It has also meant that he and first-five Tyler Bleyendaal have been able to operate on different sides of the paddock a game plan which suits the expansive style of rugby they are trying to play.
“We are starting to pick up things, little subtle differences, it's great that Tyler knows that he can have a go and I will be there and vice-versa."
Taylor's Canterbury side went through an intensive training session yesterday - their first serious hitout following a full-on week of rugby.
Their focus is on Wellington, whom they play on Saturday at AMI Stadium.
“Wellington are one of the form teams of the competition.
"I have watched a few of their games and they have been impressive so it will be a really good match," Taylor said. “From what I have seen they play a very similar style to us, so at least we should know how to defend it."
Coach Tabai Matson will get the chance to name his best possible side for the match, but did have concerns for George Whitelock who would be bracketed after suffering a thigh injury.