Greetings From New Zealand

Posted on: 09 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Nick reflects on what has been a challenging week in New Zealand.

After I played in the England team that beat the Barbarians, we were all packed up and ready to go to New Zealand by Monday evening.

That night, we flew out for for a two week training session before the first test with the All Blacks.

It’s been a pretty tough week, probably one of the hardest of my career to date but I wouldn’t have imagined anything less when training with England.

Going back to the game with the Barbarians I was delighted to get a chance and especially to play at Twickenham.

As people who may have seen the game are probably aware, we didn’t put a fluid game together but we got the win and that’s always the most important thing.

It was the first time I’ve played at Twickenham for England and I have to say it was an extremely proud occasion for my family and I.

The national anthem was brilliant; I was quite nervous so I was mainly trying to think about the game ahead but I also tried to make sure I sang loud and proud.

As for the game, I was pleased with my performance.

It was my first game for about five weeks so I could have been a little fitter and sharper but overall I think it was a good tester.

I really enjoyed the match; it was played in good spirit and a test match intensity from the Barbarians.

Rob Andrew has been in charge of the side in the lead-up to the Barbarians game and also out in New Zealand.

Martin Johnson doesn’t take over properly until July so for the moment he’s been pretty quiet and hasn’t really got too involved.

Training has been very tough. I guess as we had no game for a week we’ve had to be pretty full-on in training so we’re battle-hardened for when the first test comes around.

The standard as you would expect is extremely high and everyone is motivated to do well and impress the coaches.

However, since we arrived it’s the jet lag that’s been killing me!

I’m asleep by 8pm each night and I’m waking up around 5am every morning.

It’s been quite hard to shake off but I’m sure we’ll all tune in soon.

I stayed up to watch New Zealand’s game with Ireland at the weekend and Wellington was greeted by some pretty hard storms.

We’ve missed out on them so far but you really can expect all sorts of weather over here as they move into winter – it’s starting to remind me of home.

The weather here in Auckland has been good although it’s been due to rain this week.

The All Blacks game against Ireland was an interesting watch. I thought Ireland competed very well but it's New Zealand’s amazing mental approach that seemed to be key.

They’re so focused on winning they seem to take their chances all the time and in the end, Ireland just couldn’t hold them down.

I think we learnt a little about how they’re going to play against us. We can’t read too much into that match but their approach to the breakdown was very impressive.

They’re mighty strong and very aggressive and we’ll have to match them if we’re going to get any clean possession.

As for the hotel we’re staying in, well I couldn’t have expected anything better.

We’re overlooking the harbour in Auckland and it’s a beautiful sight.

My parents are coming over for both test matches so it will be nice to see them, sometimes touring can be a lonely place so I’ll appreciate them being around.

I don’t imagine I’ll be involved with the first test and I’m unsure about the second game either.

The other second rows seem to be running in the team plans more than I have but I’ll be knocking on the door as much as possible to be given a chance at some point.

My foot has been giving me a bit of pain again. It needs a good rest but fingers crossed it holds out for the remainder of the tour.

It was quite sad to see Nick Easter’s tour ending with injury and seeing him leave camp.

He was obviously devastated and we all really feel for him. But his misfortune offers someone else a chance to stake a claim for the shirt.

Sport can be very cruel to you one week and very kind to you another and I think we’ve all come to realise that.

I’m now expecting a tough week to get that little bit harder as we begin the run-up to Saturday’s match.

By Nick Kennedy, 9th June 2008

Nick Kennedy is currently with the England squad preparing to play New Zealand this weekend. The first test from Auckland will be screened live on Sky Sports at 8.30am on Saturday morning.

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