Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Eastmond will relish Nonu challenge

Kyle Eastmond welcomes the bone-jarring challenge of shackling New Zealand wrecking ball Ma'a Nonu in Saturday's first Test at Eden Park.

England's defence at fly-half and inside centre will be tested mercilessly with the All Blacks seeking to exploit an inexperienced midfield using Nonu as the battering ram.

The diminutive Eastmond will be winning only his third cap and Freddie Burns, who resumes his international career in the number 10 jersey, his fourth.

But Eastmond is ready for the assault that awaits when the series begins in Auckland.

"I've been playing rugby now since I was seven years old. You have to make tackles, it's as simple as that," Eastmond said.

"It's an attitude thing that has to be shared by everyone, it's not an individual thing.

"New Zealand have some big guys, but we've put in a lot of homework throughout the team to give us the best opportunity against them.

"I'll try to offer exactly what I've done throughout my career - try to get on the ball and bring energy and spark to help out my team-mates."

England's stock at inside centre has dwindled with Billy Twelvetrees injured and Luther Burrell and Brad Barritt having just arrived in New Zealand after playing in last Saturday's Aviva Premiership final.

Eastmond, who impressed during last summer's tour to Argentina, is fourth choice in the position and has been offered his chance against the All Blacks despite not having played since April.

The 24-year-old rugby league convert fell out of favour at Bath and has been omitted from their matchday 23 since.

"We've put some good work in and I'm feeling all right. I've played a lot of games this season so match fitness is not something I have in mind at all," Eastmond said.

"I'm confident I'll be okay with the match fitness. I've very excited. I've trained well and hard over the last couple of weeks."

Eastmond has lost ground in England's pecking order this season with Twelvetrees and Burrell overtaking him, but he takes a measured view on his progress.

"I have to put it into perspective where I'm at. This is the end of my second season in rugby union," he said.

The players who have been playing in my position have been playing really well.

"Luther got his chance and Billy played well throughout the Six Nations.

"I've had to be patient and wait for my chance. Now it has come."


From Belfast Telegraph