Nepo Laulala happy to be home and playing for the Blues

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The Blues open their season in Wellington against the Hurricanes on Saturday.


The Wesley College product made his first-class debut for Canterbury back in 2011, appearing in his first game for the Crusaders a year later. He joined the Chiefs in 2016, yet the 29-year-old has played only 86 Super Rugby games.


Yet, when he has been fit, he has put together 30 Test appearances since his debut in 2015. That's how highly he ranks among tighthead props.


But those injuries tested his resolve.


"Unfortunately, I've had quite a few season-ending injuries, and I wasn't able to pick up the games I probably should have.


"It's been really tough," he said.


But, family and providing for them, combined with a love of the game, had kept him going when many others might have preferred to call it quits.


"There were doubts. With my knee, the doctor said I would never play again. That annoyed me and made me want to prove him wrong. I wanted to use that as my inspiration and come back from it, and hopefully, also, there might help someone out there who has the same thing and sees that you can come back from it," he said.


There was never a prospect of losing touch with what was happening in the game. It was tough having to watch, but, he stayed connected by helping team-mates in their work.



Laulala regarded Auckland as home and said he was happy to be back and playing for the Blues.


There was also the promise of consistent pressure among the propping resources the Blues have assembled with fellow All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi, Karl Tu'inukuafe and Alex Hodgman.


"It's awesome, there's good healthy competition and it will help us improve each other and there's longevity as well because we can share the minutes and share the load in the games," he said.


While there had been constant tinkering with the laws, the most recent trial variations announced for Super Rugby Aotearoa had a concern for props - a possible reduction in the number of scrums.


It was up to the players to adjust, just as it always had been. It would mean more time to be into other skills areas in his game, but it was up to players to be familiar with the laws. There was also the knowledge that it was the same for everyone, so there was still the challenge to be best equipped to cope, he said.


Yet, for all the tinkering, Laulala hadn't noticed a lot of improvement, or difference, in scrummaging since first stepping up to the highest level of the game.


"We'll soon find out more as the season gets on," he said.


Participating in the season as much as possible and sharing a Super Rugby Aotearoa title was what he was looking for in 2021.


"We have got to go in with the belief that we are going to make it all the way to the end.


"We've got a good thing going here, we've got a good pack. I just want to enjoy my season as well and have as much fun as we can. As long as we keep our culture going we should be good," he said.


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