Dane Coles admits it was a weird experience playing against his former Hurricanes teammate, Brad Shields, when the two players went toe-to-toe in a gripping Test match at Twickenham which saw the All Blacks prevail over England on a narrow 16-15 scoreline.
Shields, despite having been born in New Zealand, pinned his allegiance to England after he made his debut for Eddie Jones’ side during the summer tour against the Springboks – he qualified for England through his English parents.
Shields now plies his trade with Wasps and Coles said at a press conference today in Dublin that it was a ‘pretty weird’ experience coming up against the 27-year-old on Saturday.
“Oh mate, it was pretty weird last week playing against ‘Shieldsy’. I went out to check the ground before kick off. I was pretty relaxed and he had the headphones on, not giving away much. You have a joke but it’s weird, especially when you’re so close. I’ve played so much rugby with ‘Shieldsy’.
“I suppose when it’s personal, when you have a personal relationship, it’s quite difficult but once you’re on the field…I tried to counter a ruck and he was like ‘come on then’, you know? When you’re out there, you need to do a job so you can put those relationships aside when you’re on the field.
“We were happy to catch up after the game and stuff, which is awesome. It makes the journey that little bit more special, that you get to play with your mates that you grew up with and play for different countries but that’s just the nature of what’s happening now. Guys are finding opportunities to play international footy and that’s all good.”
Although the two remain friends, when it comes to playing a Test match for the All Blacks, friendship goes out the window as Coles revealed he sought out Shields during the Haka.
“I didn’t take my eyes off him! I found him and I just looked straight at him. We locked eyes for the whole Haka, so, he wasn’t giving me much and I was going pretty hard at it so it was good, a good little moment.”
However, when all is said and done on the rugby pitch, mutual respect remains paramount after a game and Coles told how he and Shields swapped jerseys in what was a “pretty special moment” for the All Blacks hooker.
“I gave him a ring during the week and he wasn’t answering my calls. I text him and he said ‘I’m not allowed talk to All Blacks this week!’
“He had media and stuff so we had a little chat on the phone and wished each other good luck and then we were into it. You put those relationships aside when you’re on that field and you go at it. Then after the game, you can have a beer. We swapped jerseys which was a pretty special moment for ourselves. So that was cool. ”
Coles and the rest of the All Blacks squad look set to undergo another stern test when they take on Ireland at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday at 7 pm.