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New cap Papali'i aware of the No.7 legacy

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Lynn McConnell     02 Nov 2018     Getty Images

The legacy surrounding his position is one of the most enduring in the All Blacks history.

"Looking at that jersey [No.7] I'm filling some big shoes. The best player in the world has played in that position – Richie McCaw. I'm dreaming of the moment just before kick-off and I'm putting it on. I don't know what's going to happen…a lot of emotions, but it's a special feeling," he said.

"I want to try and do my bit for that jersey and go from there."

Things had happened faster than Papali'i anticipated when heading into the 2018 season and initially he had been aiming for the odd start and time on the bench for the Blues, but injuries had accelerated his promotion.

Now being in the All Blacks he was aware that things could change in a short period of time.

"I never thought I would be an All Black this year so everything that comes to me I like to set goals in periods. My goal right now is to try and impact in the All Blacks' jersey and to help this team be successful," he said.

"You dream all your life about being in this position. Every little kid growing up wants to be in this position to hear your name being called out," he said.

Having Blues teammates alongside had made the transition easier, especially around getting into the culture of the All Blacks so quickly.



Where there were seven others who were making debuts it was a special time but they realised there was a standard the All Blacks had and when you were in the environment you prepared as if you expected to play.

"So even though it's a first time, it's a special occasion but when you go out there standards don't change," he said.

Papali'i said he had enjoyed having extra time in Japan among the experienced loose forwards like Kieran Read and Ardie Savea.

"Getting a connection with those boys can help me filter with these new boys," he said.

Prop Ofa Tuungafasi said it was awesome to have Papali'i in the side. He had seen the work he had put in last year and this year and he never doubted that one day he would be a part of the All Blacks.

Named at loosehead prop, instead of his more traditional tighthead, Tuungafasi said it was his role to be able to play both sides. Making the transition was helped by having scrum coach Mike Cron on hand, along with the props who were in the side.

That allowed him to build confidence earlier in the week so that by the end of the week he trusted himself to handle the role on the basis of the work that had gone in.

They knew what to expect from Japan.

"We expect them to play a high tempo, go at about 100 miles an hour at us and we're looking forward to going out there on Saturday and playing. They've got some very quality players. [Michael] Leitch is a great leader and we're all looking forward to a great challenge," he said.

Papali'i said Japan were a fit team who did the basics very well.

Tuungafasi said it had been great having hooker Dane Coles back in the side. His experience and leadership brought the team together, especially the younger players.

"Just the way Colesy speaks and trains, he's a great leader," he said.

From a front rower's perspective Coles gave the unit confidence and plenty of questions had been asked of him during the week.