Roigard takes unconventional path into the All Blacks

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There was none of the usual exposure through NZ Under-20s, or teams of that type, to put his name out there, and he feels it was the decision to try his luck in the Bunnings NPC with Counties Manukau that got him noticed.

Covid-19 had impacted the year he was eligible to be considered for the NZ Under-20s, and he didn't know whether, being based in Waikato, he would have made that squad.

Roigard went home to Cambridge to be with his family, hoping that he would be named into one of the two teams.

"In hindsight, I'm glad I did because it was a pretty special moment with my family."

Roigard was aware of noise suggesting he might be a bolter for selection but said that in the Hurricanes' environment, it was easy to stay grounded and to keep his focus on doing his best for the side.

He acknowledged his opportunity for so much game time resulted from the Achilles tendon injury suffered by TJ Perenara, a player who had set the standard in the position for the Hurricanes with his competitiveness and how he performed for so many years.

"Being able to step into his shoes and maintain that standard at halfback meant there was a bit of pressure there, but a great opportunity for me. Me and TJ, despite being in the same position, get on real well and he's been nothing but positive for me during the Super season."

The Perenara connection began before they had met. Roigard said that through his schoolboy career, the Wellington All-Black was a player he could relate to. They were similar sizes, and Perenara, like Roigard, was predominantly a left-footed kicker.

"He was someone I tried to mould my game off."

Roigard said he had a conversation with selector Joe Schmidt earlier in the season, who told him he was in a pool of potential players they were interested in.

Upon joining the squad, his goal will be to earn the respect of others, especially those he hadn't met and management by working hard and taking any opportunity if it came his way.

"If it doesn't happen then it's just making sure I'm doing everything possible so that if it does happen that I'm ready."

Getting 50-60 minutes a game throughout the Super season allowed him to build on the experience he gained with the All Blacks XV in their two games in Europe last year. It helped him understand what it meant to play international rugby while also alongside TJ Perenara in that side.


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