Ex-NRL star Ben Te’o is warming to his role as a super-sub for Eddie Jones’ England rugby team.
Fresh from a destructive, match-winning role in Saturday’s 19-16 victory over France, 30-year-old Te’o is looking to have a similar impact in the Six Nations showdown with Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
The Worcester centre arrived on to the pitch in the 69th minute and 93 seconds later he had carried twice and picked a smart running line to score the decisive try against France, setting a new record for the fastest touch down by a debutant in the Championship.
It was his fourth cap – all of them have been won off the bench – and the 30-year-old accepts his current role, which has been described by Jones as a “finisher”.
“You’ve got to be patient. Eddie’s talked to me about that,” Te’o said.
“I didn’t get a go on the tour to Australia last summer but I left feeling quite motivated to really train hard and have a good start to the next season,.
“Now that I’m getting in and getting a bit of a taste of it, it makes me want to keep improving and keep pushing.
“I understand that strong teams are more like strong squads and that you need depth and you need people to all pull in the right direction.”
Auckland-born Te’o, who qualifies for England through his mother, has a nomadic CV that includes stints with NRL clubs Wests Tigers, Brisbane and South Sydney, international rugby league for Samoa, seven appearances for Queensland in the State of Origin and spells at Leinster and Worcester in union.
It is the variety of his experiences that ensures playing at a raucous Principality Stadium will be taken in his stride.
“I can’t say it would really affect me much. I’ve come up against plenty of teams, plenty of rival games, and been to plenty of hostile environments. It’s rugby isn’t it? I’m going to go out on the field and play,” he said.
“State of Origin is quite hostile. NRL finals – there are some big games there. If you’re going to Sydney to play the Blues in a decider it’s full-on, a bit of everything. Just really intense. So a nice loud crowd – I’m not foreign to it.
“I’ve played in some big European Cup games in France – Toulon was very hostile.”
While England ultimately claimed Te’o’s allegiance, Ireland were also interested in recruiting him on residency grounds.
The prospect of playing for Joe Schmidt’s men seemed to grow when a photo of him in an Irish jersey was circulated on social media, resulting in condemnation as a rugby mercenary.
“I think I was in a sports store and we were trying on a load of different jerseys. I just put that up,” said Te’o, who was one year short of qualifying for Ireland on residency grounds.
“At the time I was playing for Leinster. The guys who were on that team who understand my personality would know what I was doing.”