Luke Romano. Photo by Getty
Doing his builder's apprenticeship then working his way
into a professional rugby career has been a slow churn for All
Black lock Luke Romano.
It's not quite the normal pattern of professional rugby
players who seem to be on a conveyor belt from the time they
leave secondary school.
About that time Romano was dealing with a crushed bone in his
back as a result of rugby.
He recovered and worked his way through his apprenticeship
while he continued with his rugby at the weekends.
It was not until he was 24 that he was offered a contract
with the Crusaders and began his climb to the All Blacks.
That done at the start of the season he is set to run out
tomorrow against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
He's heard plenty of stories about the famed arena and soaked
up tales from teammate Daniel Carter about the atmosphere on
"DC recalls the first time he played here and how it was a
special occasion for him," Romano said.
How much detail Carter revealed about that test in 2004 is
unclear, but Romano would hope his first appearance is not as
edgy as the All Backs solitary point 26-25 victory that day.
It was also Richie McCaw's first test as skipper because
coach Graham Henry decided to rest Tana Umaga for that
Ali Williams was also in that touring squad and came off the
bench in that match. While he was looking to rediscover that
zest on this tour, Romano and Brodie Retallick have pushed
past him as Sam Whitelock's locking partners.
Romano began against Scotland and then hoped that performance
would hold up in the team selection meeting for this weekend.
It did, and that was a boost for his developing test career
as the coaches said they would put out the best side against
"It gives you confidence they believe in you and what you
have done," he said.
It told him he was on the right track in producing what the
coaches wanted from their locks.
The late bloomer felt comfortable with his progress. He had
learned gradually about playing the game as he grafted that
on to his working life before shedding his builder's apron.
Rugby either suited your personality or not and it seemed to
fit his love for the outdoors, rolling his sleeves up and
getting stuck into jobs.
He was not a student of the sport like some in the squad and
had only seen footage of a few All Black tests played in
"But since being here you understand what rugby means to the
Welsh. They are very passionate and get in behind their team
and having heard about the atmosphere it should be
something," Romano said.
People in the street saw you walking to the gym or waited
outside the hotel asking for autographs. That gave him some
inkling about the country's love for rugby.
What had this year told him about himself and his progression
from a debut against Ireland in Hamilton?
Consistency had to be the watchword. In Super rugby a strong
game could be followed by a patchy one which was a likely
result of an ebb in concentration or preparation.
That was a no go at test level. If you did that you needed to
be benched or worse.
"People can see if you are not pulling your weight or you are
not doing the right thing," he said.
How a test went was decided by how players prepared
throughout the week. There was a great deal more to rugby
than pulling on the kit and playing.
All those little things had been an eye opener for Romano in
his rookie year while the messages were about being direct
"As a team we have noted in the last few games that
physicality has not been up there with previous All Black
performances so that is one area where we certainly want to
improve," he said..
"It is not about going out there to bash people - you have to
be smart about the way you want to be physical."
- By Wynne Gray of the New Zealand Herald