Choat eager to make most of opportunity

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Choat stood up in Papalii's absence through injury in the side's opening 32-33 loss to the Hurricanes at the weekend, and his 19 tackles demonstrated his worth as the side's back-up openside flanker.


But Choat knows Papalii's likely return for Saturday's game against the Chiefs looms, and his playing minutes are likely to reduce.


The pair have grown up together and are good mates, and while it was unfortunate that Papalii and Akira Ioane's broken had given him a chance, he was grateful to be playing again.


"Dalts is back and I'm grateful to be able to play alongside him," he said.


Choat said he was thrilled for Papalii that he had cracked Test rugby, and that gave him the chance to learn from what he had picked up in his international outings.


"He's definitely a hell of a player, and a hell of a leader. He's got a good rugby brain on him and a good attitude around the game. I'm trying to pick his brain a bit and help out where I can in the team," he said.



Playing in the most combative position in the game, Choat knows being prepared to step in as a tactical substitute or when injuries occur is vital. And for a flanker, being equipped to launch into competition at the ruck was vital.


The breakdown was a central part of a game where, through law changes, there was a lot less opportunity to hurt the opposition, he said.


"At ruck time, you get a bit of a crack, and that's where we're trying to dominate this year. Set-piece and ruck time, that's where it starts, up front," he said.


Choat said he was sore for a few days after the Hurricanes effort but was coming right.


He aimed to put in as many tackles as possible during a game to assist that process.


"I was pretty happy to be able to get through the 80 minutes, and to get through those tackles. It was my first game in about eight months because of Covid," he said.


"That last 10 minutes was pretty tough."


Choat felt the Blues stopped playing. They took their feet off the Hurricanes' throats and allowed them back into the game.


"We've taken a lot of positives out of the game. We've been a week behind everyone else, not that that should have factored into it. But we saw, the week before last, how the Hurricanes came back strong against the Crusaders, so we knew we had to make an 80-minute performance.

"It was some simple errors, and we looked like a bit of a different team in the last 10 minutes compared to the 70 before that," he said.


"We were playing some damned good footy, and you could see that our shape and game plan was working, and we were dominating them, particularly up-front as well. Realistically, we should have put 40 points on them and won by 20 or so.


"We've got to take that lesson. The championship is not won in the first round," he said.


Old rivals and neighbours, the Chiefs will be their next test at Eden Park on Saturday.


"We're looking forward to it," he said.


The Blues are returning from Queenstown on Thursday.


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