Depth and strength developing in front row

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The game will be a Bledisloe Cup decider should the All Blacks win. But, whatever the outcome, the advance of loosehead prop George Bower in the absence of Joe Moody has already been a boost for the side while hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho has been another to step up to Test level.

 

Bower will play his second Bledisloe Cup game, and while he has been absorbing plenty in his late run to international play, he has enjoyed every moment.

 

With the same combination to start, Bower said while he had propped throughout the Super Rugby season with hooker Codie Taylor, he had learnt what tighthead prop Nepo Laulala required of him.

 

"I've grown a good connection there. And I've been connecting with the boys on the bench as well. It's coming on nicely," he said.

 

Feeling more connected with a wider group of players, Bower said he felt more comfortable within the team environment.

 

The small margins at Test level had been one of the realisations coming from more play for Bower.

 

"For me, the importance of those small margins with everything, when it's scrums or lineouts, just how important those small margins are. They could be the difference and count towards the end result," he said.

 

There were advances he felt he could still make in defence and at the breakdown.

Bower said the scrums in the first Test had been a good tussle, especially at the start of the Test, and there were lessons he took away from the experience.

 

Both he and replacement tighthead Karl Tu'inukuafe had been impressed by the way Taukei'aho had adapted to international play.

 

Tu'inukuafe said the first time Taukei'aho played it was at the captain's run where he learned he would be playing the next day.  But, last week, he was only told as the players warmed up moments before the Test. Yet, he had still been able to adjust.

 

"He had an even shorter time to prepare so what he has done in the last few weeks has been unreal. For him to be named fully in the squad for the whole week I think will be a good chance for him to show what he can really do," he said.

 

That would be another test for him because he had a whole week to go through a different type of preparedness.

 

Tu'inukuafe said Bower was a player with a lot of skills, both on and off the field.

 

"He can do it all, play the piano, play the guitar. He's opened up around the boys and the boys are loving it. It's good having him," he said.

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