Laulala's Test will have extra meaning

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Lynn McConnell     10 Nov 2017     Getty Images

Apart from the fact that it will represent his latest appearance since recovering from a knee injury that threatened his rugby future, it will be in front of his brother, and former All Black Casey, now playing club rugby in France, who inspired the prop by showing what was possible in his rugby career.


Laulala said coming back from his injury had been hard because his doctor advised him he didn't think he would play again.

"It was a massive injury and one of the worst that he had ever seen. It's not really the thing you want to hear from your doctor.

"I wanted to prove that I could make it back and I wanted to prove that doctor wrong. I was really angry. After that I never saw him again," he said.

Laulala said it was part of a professional rugby player's life to prove people wrong.

"You've got to stay strong and not believe everything you hear.

"It was a tough road back, very humbling. It made me grow a lot more mature. I looked at it as if I was just starting off my career instead of continuing on from last time. I tried to change a lot of things that I used to do," he said.

Casey Laulala had been an inspiration, initially, in showing that it was possible to achieve Test status and he had been a big help with messages of support during his recovery.

"He made us realise we were more capable than what we think," he said.
Laulala said he felt more comfortable in the All Blacks environment now and he had learned that he didn't need to overdo things in a bid to impress.

"I can see clearly what I need to work on rather than over-thinking stuff and over-working myself," he said.

Scrum coach Mike Cron had been vital to the side.

"He's really good at keeping the boys on their toes and not letting anyone get complacent," he said.

Hooker Dane Coles said Cron was quite excited at the moment as he had 11 front rowers to deal with.

"He's a great man and his attention to detail keeps things real simple and he gets his point across, so he has to take a lot of credit for the front row and especially the forward pack," he said.

Coles felt fellow Hurricane and flanker Vaea Fifita would be ready to handle the biggest Test match of his short career, after getting his chance due to illness keeping Liam Squire out.

"He's [Fifita] taken massive strides being in this team. He puts the work in during the week. He's a quiet man but I know he does the work so I'm sure that will give him a lot of confidence," Coles said.

It also helped that he had captain and No.8 Kieran Read and flanker Sam Cane to help him out during the game.

"I've got no doubt he'll go out and perform," he said.

Coles will be up against French captain Guilhem Guirado, who had played several times.

"He's a pretty powerful player, aggressive and a great captain so I think as always when the French play the All Blacks, the forward battle is always huge," he said.

The French tighthead prop Rabah Slimani was also very powerful so it was going to be a tough contest.

"We looked at a bit of footage against Africa in the June series and he did a bit of damage, and especially last year as well against us," he said.

The All Blacks had also talked about Dave Gallaher's legacy. Being 100 years since his death at Passchendaele in World War One, there had been talk about him in the side's preparation, especially for younger players who might not have understood the legacy he had helped create for the team.

It was a huge honour for the chosen 23 to go out and honour some great men and All Blacks who lost their lives at war, he said.