Flutey ready for All Blacks

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NZPA     28 Nov 2008     Getty Images

Flutey becomes the latest former New Zealander to confront his birthplace when England attempt to prevent the All Blacks completing a third Grand Slam at Twickenham on Saturday (3.30amSunNZT).

It was an afternoon he has thought plenty about since the former Wellington, Hurricanes and New Zealand Maori midfielder decided to declare allegiance to the English after fulfilling a three-year residential qualification in September.

While the opportunity to play international football was an obvious lure after he was never in contention for the All Blacks, the 28-year-old admitted he did have some initial misgivings about what is about to transpire.

Flutey, who has played in England since 2005 for London Irish and now Wasps, consulted friends and family to make sure that they were happy with him facing the haka in wearing the red rose of England.

"Initially I was 'Jeez, that would be quite hard for me to do', especially with me leading the haka in all my New Zealand age grades, but they gave me their full blessing," Flutey said when he was earmarked as an England cap-in-waiting in July.

While the whanau were sweet with it, one conversation helped sway his decision.

"I had a chat with Norm Hewitt when I was back in New Zealand (in February).

"We went for lunch and I was a little scared to even ask him with him being a staunch New Zealand Maori. I remember him and Richard Cockerill being face to face in the haka (at Manchester in 1997).

"But he said 'what a fantastic opportunity' and to hear that from Norm, I was, like, wow, to get his blessing."

And now, given his tight right hamstring was given the all clear yesterday, Flutey is preparing himself mentally for standing on the 10-metre line facing his old national age-group or provincial teammates Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Piri Weepu and Rodney So'oialo.

While England are yet to reveal what, if anything, they will do in response to the haka, Flutey confirmed he would not emulate the actions of Tipoki, Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning -- Munster's Kiwi ex-pats who famously did their own version of Ka Mate before the All Blacks match in Limerick last week.

"I reckon that might be just a little inappropriate," he told English media yesterday.

However, he has no qualms in turning out of England is what will be a special fourth cap.

"When I hear the New Zealand anthem, a whole lot of things will be in the back of my mind. But I'll be singing the English anthem.

"I'm a part of this culture now and I respect it. I don't make the rules relating to who can play international rugby where, and I have no regrets about the decision I've taken.

"I never got the chance to test my skills for the All Blacks at international level so I thought if I did get the chance to measure my skills with England, it would be a fantastic honour, an awesome experience."

Admittedly it has not quite been a memorable experience, three Tests into his international career. Any fond recollections from the win on debut over the Pacific Islands has been erased by back-to-back losses to Australia and South Africa.

He lasted just 32 minutes against the Springboks last weekend, so was spared the bulk of the record 42-6 beating.

"My hamstring tightened up in the first 10," he explained.

"I made the right decision to go off, because the problem turned out to be fluid on some old scar tissue -- a potential eight-weeker if I'd stayed on and allowed it to really blow up."

Now Flutey faces a new brand of damage assessment and limitation against his old mates and the diagnosis is not overly optimistic: "They're very dangerous in the counter-attack area -- they have ballplayers throughout the side, people with great footwork and a very high skill set," he said.

"But hey, they're still human."