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Waldrom '100 percent' behind England

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Sportal.co.nz     15 Nov 2012     Getty Images

Waldrom, who was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, is poised to win his fourth England cap against Australia on Saturday after switching allegiance from the All Blacks.

England coach Stuart Lancaster has built a culture in the national team based on pride in the jersey and a respect for what the red rose represents.

For Waldrom, who is of Maori descent and moved to Leicester in 2010, that has been something of a learning process.

While his appreciation for cream teas and Coronation Street is growing, Waldrom maintains his loyalty to the England team has never been in doubt.

"Playing my first Test match was probably the highlight of my career. The boys have accepted me really well, they know what I am here for," Waldrom said.

"They know I am 100 percent for England and I will do anything I can do perform the best I can for the team.

"Stuart and the coaching staff have spent a lot of time building a team culture. It is about accepting people for who they are.

"Everyone has different personalities in the team, which you have to embrace and enjoy. I am loving the environment.

"I get a bit of stick because I don't come across sounding English and because of the things you say.

"Today's discussion was whether you put the jam or the cream first on your scones.

"I said I was more jam and then cream. They said the English way was cream first, so I said I would change to fit in.

"The boys give me stick for watching Home And Away so I have switched to Coronation Street. I am slowly getting into that sort of stuff."

Waldrom's brother, Scott, is a New Zealand Sevens and Maori international and he played for the All Blacks against Munster in 2008.

But Waldrom was not on the All Blacks' radar and moved to Welford Road in the summer of 2010, with a stated ambition of serving the three-year residency period and representing England.

In March of last year, Waldrom discovered that he qualified automatically through his grandmother - and within six months he was in England's Rugby World Cup squad.

Waldrom was not welcomed universally. Luke Narraway, the Gloucester number eight, had a dig on Twitter after he had missed out on a World Cup place.

Narraway posted: "Good luck to Thomas the tank and his English nan. #notbittermuch."

Waldrom revealed Martin Johnson, the England coach who first called him into the national squad, had checked to make sure he was fully committed to the red rose.

"When I first got into the squad during the World Cup, Johnno took my aside and said 'do you know what you are doing because one day you will have to play the All Blacks?' Waldrom recounted.

"I said: 'I know that but this is the thing I want to do'."

Lancaster awarded Waldrom his first England cap off the bench in the second Test defeat to South Africa on the summer tour.

Waldrom replaced Ben Morgan in the starting line-up for the drawn third Test and retained the jersey for last weekend's 54-12 win against Fiji.

Lancaster will confirm his starting XV to face Australia tomorrow but Morgan's release for club duty suggests Waldrom will once again pack down at number eight.

For any Kiwi-born rugby player, there is something a little different about playing Australia.

"It is one game you look forward to playing," Waldrom said.

"You want to be playing against the best teams in the world to measure yourself and it will be like that on Saturday.

"You can't look at their one game against France (which resulted in a 33-6 defeat) in isolation.

"You have to go back and look at what they did in the Rugby Championship, how they pushed NZ to an 18-18 draw.

"We know they will be a lot stronger than last week.

"We have to be 15-20% better than we were against Fiji. We have got to take our chances.

"We have built a great platform and hopefully we can put those performances on the field now."