"Through the generations, everyone grows up idolising the All Blacks jersey" 2 months ago

"Through the generations, everyone grows up idolising the All Blacks jersey"

"Oh, I learned heaps from him."

All Blacks star Braydon Ennor smiles broadly when Ronan O'Gara's name is mentioned, early in our chat.

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Ennor played under the Munster legend when he was assistant to head coach Scott Robertson at Super Rugby trophy-hogs, the Crusaders. O'Gara had a two-year stint in Christchurch and came away even more impressed with New Zealand rugby than he landed for the coaching gig.

"Ronan's an awesome guy and an awesome coach," says Ennor. "He was obviously playing at that high level for such a long period. So he had a lot of wisdom, and tricks of the trade to pass down."

"He can definitely succeed as a head coach," he adds. "He's definitely got the brain for it, aye."

Ronan O'Gara, pictured during his time as assistant coach of the Crusaders, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

The honour of representing the All Blacks

For All Blacks teammate Luke Jacobson, he gets reunited with Warren Gatland at the Chiefs after a short off-season. The former Wales and British & Irish Lions coach is already back in New Zealand after his latest stint with the Lions in South Africa.

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"It's awesome having him in that environment," he says, "and being an old Chiefs and Waikato man, he has a lot of ties to the club, and a lot of passion for the club as well.

"I guess it doesn't seem like as much of a big deal for me, as I'm quite good mates with his son. So I've been in with him quite a fair few times growing up, so it's like my mate's old man, more so! It's going to be wicked having him back in and working together with Clayton McMillan."

Speaking to us as part of INEOS Sports, who have released a dedicated pro sports sanitiser 'to minimise lost training days', both men are razzed to be involved in their first European tour.

"As a Kiwi, growing up, you're getting up at 3am to follow games on a [European] tour like this, to watch the All Blacks with your family. It's always a occasion. Through the generations, everyone grows up idolising the black jersey...

"To be able to get on that pathway, especially with Luke and I being quite young, sometimes you have to take a step back and look at how far you've come. This is a pretty awesome opportunity  to be in this environment."

"Just to be regarded as someone who's in the top 35 rugby players in New Zealand, at the moment, that's pretty cool in itself," adds Jacobson.

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All Blacks stars back Club Rugby World Cup

Jacobson has the more Test experience of the duo - 12 caps to Ennor's four, so far - and he cites flanker Liam Messam as his rugby idol, growing up. For Ennor, he picked a good rugby role model - former Hurricanes and All Blacks centre Conrad Smith.

Asked about the notion of a Club World Cup, even if it is just once every two years, the Kiwis turn to smile at each other with eyebrows raised.

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"That'd be awesome. Hook it up, man!"

"It'd be quite cool to see how the different styles of rugby match up," Jacobson adds, "and how our sides would get on against the top European sides."

On the INEOS Sports range, which the All Blacks have been using on their rugby travels, both men have happily embraced the extra hygiene push and that slight tweak in their routine.

"Staying on the field is the key goal for us," says Jacobson. "Playing footy is everything to us, so we'd be willing to give up a bit to keep doing that. So these routine and hygiene changes we have to make are pretty minor, in the grand scheme of things. We then get to play, keep getting paid and everything keeps rolling on.

"On this northern tour, we haven't been able to get out and about too much. But, hopefully, me and Brayds will get another chance to tour up here, in the future, get out and experience the cities a bit more."

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