Ngatai targets All Blacks midfield vacancy

Chiefs back Charlie Ngatai has his eyes on a bigger prize as he seeks to play himself into contention for the All Blacks Test series against Wales in June.

The Maori All Blacks captain played his first and only Test off the bench against Samoa in Apia last July and has a good chance of claiming the vacant second five-eighth jersey following the departure of Ma’a Nonu.

However, Ngatai realises he faces a tough challenge from the likes of reliable Crusaders No.12 Ryan Crotty and powerhouse Blues utility George Moala.

“There are a lot of other players trying to push for that spot. If I play well and stay injury-free I will be in with a chance,” Ngatai said.

“It’s good to keep your standards up – competition is good for yourself.”

Ngatai, 25, says his short time with the All Blacks has only increased his desire to return to international rugby.

“Just taking everything in and learning off players like Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw, and seeing how they run a team, you get a taste of that and you want more.”

One advantage for the Taranaki skipper is his ability to cover both midfield roles, having played centre for the Chiefs outside Sonny Bill Williams last season.

There is also competition for the All Blacks centre berth, with the long-serving Conrad Smith having joined Nonu in taking up a French club contract.

Ngatai says there are subtle differences between the roles but he is happy to lock down No.12 at the Chiefs because that suits the team best.

His next assignment is helping the Chiefs beat the Lions in Hamilton on Saturday.

The Lions impressed in a 26-13 win over the Sunwolves, who made their Super Rugby debut in Japan last weekend.

“They’re going to be physical, like most South African teams are, and they have a couple of electric players that we have to watch, so if we can contain them we should be all good,” he said.

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