Belfast Telegraph

Te'o vows to flex his muscles in duel with old rival Sonny Bill

 

By Nick Purewal

Ben Te'o has pledged to stick to his muscular strengths in tomorrow's British and Irish Lions showdown with New Zealand.

Lions boss Warren Gatland has maintained all tour that England centre Te'o is a far more gifted footballer than many realise.

Dual-code star Te'o insisted, however, that he will not let outside opinions or anything else disrupt his stride ahead of the keenly-anticipated Eden Park clash with the All Blacks.

The 30-year-old vowed to keep on cutting the destructive, bludgeoning lines that have carried him into the Lions' Test team, teeing up a mouthwatering match-up with Kiwi counterpart Sonny Bill Williams.

Asked what he thinks of Gatland highlighting his subtler points, Te'o replied: "It doesn't bother me. I understand what I am.

"I'm very comfortable. It's not like I can go out there, put in a couple of kicks, throw a couple of long balls and turn around and say, 'I told you I can play like that'.

"I just do what I feel comfortable with and what my strengths are. And I'm fine with that.

"So whatever people say, it doesn't really bother me any more. I'm probably too far down the track in my career to be worrying about what people are saying. All I can do is bring my strengths and add it to the team system.

"If they want me to truck it up, I'll truck it up.

"If they want me to do something else, they'll let me know."

Lions centre Te'o clashed with All Blacks star Williams as bitter Sydney rivals in Australia's NRL, and will lock horns again in Auckland tomorrow.

Te'o helped South Sydney Rabbitohs win the NRL title in 2014, alongside team-mate Sam Burgess.

Williams had guided Sydney Roosters to the crown in 2013, and now the two battering-ram stars will collide once more, but this time in union.

Auckland-born Te'o thrived in Australia before swapping codes and joining Leinster, then moving on to Worcester Warriors in 2016.

He qualifies for England through his mother and has won eight caps in assuring a pivotal role in boss Eddie Jones' squad.

The Lions could well want Te'o to attempt to subdue Williams and help shut down his much-vaunted offloading game. But Te'o believes the All Blacks' attacking variety means there will not be too many head-on collisions with his former league rival.

"I've been lucky enough to play against him a couple of times," said Te'o, of Williams.

"We're both at 12 but whether we meet on the field, who knows.

"I'm wary of his abilities, I know what he can do in big games, I've seen it before, so we'll be preparing well for it.

"He's a great player; we'll have to see what happens on Saturday."

Belfast Telegraph

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