Dream come true for Papali’i in Paris

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He has been preferred on the blindside flank instead of his usual openside role, as New Zealand look to speed in the loose and competitiveness at the breakdown as a weapon against the favoured French side.

He said, "I've always dreamt of this moment. Sometimes dreams come true, and, in my case, it has. When I was first told, I was over the moon, proud to represent this team and my family and get my last name on the world stage.

"To do it with this team… I'm shaking even talking about it now. It means so much to me, to do it for myself, my family and the boys I get to work with. It's truly special, I really want to soak it up. You have a job to do for the team, but the excitement levels are going crazy."

While the emotions were at such a high pitch, he was surrounded by players who experienced coping with that situation, which was valuable.

"I have a process I always fall back on in big games like this. Once the warm-up starts to happen, you have a job to do so you put those emotions aside and get on with it. This is what we play rugby for, occasions like this."

Wing Mark Telea is aware of the tradition of All Blacks wings shining at World Cups, none more than Jonah Lomu.

He said, "New Zealand have a rich history of great outside backs. I am just trying to pave my own way, add to my own legacy, with great players and leaders around me and a great coaching staff. The amount of effort we put in is crazy. We just want to go out and display the type of rugby we play in New Zealand."

Telea said he felt similar emotions to when he made his Test debut against Scotland.

"Fozzie [coach Ian Foster] told me, 'I want to give you a crack, take the opportunity'.

"I try to prepare well, get my mind and body ready and when the team is named, do what you can for the team. The emotion for me has been overwhelming. I feel fortunate to be selected and want to do the best I can, especially with the backs we have got. I am just grateful the coach sees something in me."

The 2023 Rugby World Cup kicks off when the All Blacks face France at Stade de France on Saturday September 9 at 7.15am NZT (Friday 8 September, 9.15pm CEST).


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