NEW Zealand hooker Dane Coles is fighting fit for his return to the All Blacks side this weekend against Japan, but he has ruled out taking the captain’s armband.
The 31-year-old has won 56 caps for New Zealand but has been sidelined for almost a year with a serious knee injury.
“Just because of the year I’ve had, I’ve got to be a little bit selfish here,” Coles said.
“It’s (captaincy) probably not the best thing for me to do.
“I’ve still got a lead role, if I play, in this team,” he added.
“But there’s obviously a lot of young guys coming through and whoever the captain is I’ll support him.”
Coles is itching to make his New Zealand comeback in Tokyo on Saturday when he will lock horns with his former Wellington Lions coach Jamie Joseph, now in charge of 2019 World Cup hosts Japan.
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Japan coach Jamie Joseph before the 2017 Test against the Wallabies.Source:Getty Images
“He was a hard man,” said Coles when asked about former All Black Joseph.
“We used to do a lot of hard sessions with Jamie — very demanding back then, but a good man.
“He drilled work ethic into a lot of young guys coming through but a good man, a hard trainer.”
New Zealand are set to field a second string side against the 2019 World Cup hosts after beating Australia 37-20 in Yokohama at the weekend to complete a 3-0 Bledisloe Cup whitewash.
“I feel like I’m playing for the first time,” Coles said.
“The hardest thing was to overcome those (injury) setbacks and get back on the horse again.
“I’ve worked really hard to get back to being a professional rugby player.
“My drive is still burning and I still feel like I’ve got a lot to offer New Zealand rugby.”
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Hurricanes coach John Plumtree watches his players scrum.Source:Getty Images
— ‘Average defence coach’ —
Coles, meanwhile, took a light hearted dig at Japan assistant John Plumtree, who will be promoted to head coach of the Hurricanes next season.
“I think they’ve got this really average defence coach John Plumtree helping them out at the moment,” Coles joked.
“So you kind of know what’s coming, like the line speed and stuff.
“Obviously I’ve worked with Jamie and Plum, so it’s up to us to do the work and bring what the All Blacks can bring.
“Plum cares a lot about his players and is a really good coach — he’s really helped our defence for the Hurricanes.
“It’s awesome to see them coaching on the world stage.”
Barrett plays tunnel ball0:00
Rugby: Beauden Barrett’s through the legs try assist for Rieko Ioane sealed the deal from just four metres out.
New Zealand play away Tests against England, Ireland and Italy after facing Japan — a team they once smashed 145-17 at the 1995 World Cup, with Joseph appearing for the All Blacks in that record win.
Coles, who is likely to be one of New Zealand’s most senior players this weekend, is just hoping to find his feet again quickly after such a lengthy absence.
“There’s a lot of things I’m still trying to get my head around,” he said.
“But my philosophy is to do what’s best for the team — I’ll try to be the best water carrier I can be.”
Originally published as ‘A little bit selfish’: Why star snubbed All Blacks captaincy
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