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All Blacks hookers relish rise to top

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/10/2016 Angelo Risso
Dane Coles in action for the All Blacks © Getty Images Dane Coles in action for the All Blacks

The Horowhenua and Kapiti Coast districts at the bottom of the North Island are home to fewer than one in 50 Kiwis.

So for two All Blacks to emerge from the adjoining coastal areas at the same time, and in the same position, is fairly extraordinary.

Hookers Dane Coles and Codie Taylor were born just 40 kilometres apart in Paraparaumu and Levin respectively, under the same Horowhenua-Kapiti Heartland rugby catchment.

From there the pair diverged, with Coles heading to Wellington and rising to the Hurricanes captaincy and Taylor moving to the Crusaders via Australia.

Yet both came together to help New Zealand retain the rugby World Cup in 2015 and, a year on, begin the All Blacks' northern tour as the side's two foremost hookers.

"We're pretty proud to come from the region and Codie's old man is the manager of the Heartland team, so there's good connections out there," Coles said.

The 29-year-old Coles has shone throughout 2016, driving the Hurricanes to a maiden Super Rugby title and dazzling with his offensive skills in the All Blacks' flawless Rugby Championship.

However, with All Blacks bosses looking to shuffle their decks at the end of another gruelling campaign, Taylor is expected to assume a more central role in the next four Tests.

The 25-year-old Crusader said he'd do whatever he could to help the squad.

Codie Taylor © Getty Images Codie Taylor "I'm still learning a lot from this fella, he sets the standard for a hooker throughout the world now," Taylor said of Coles.

"This guy's just playing too good to get a run on."

The All Blacks begin their multi-continental odyssey in Chicago this weekend, where they'll take on an Irish outfit chomping at the bit for their first Test of the northern season.

They'll then travel to Europe for clashes with Italy, Ireland again and France.

The New Zealanders adopted a relaxed approach to the beginning of their trip, taking in Chicago's sights and attending an NBA game since their arrival on Friday.

However the squad were all business on Sunday as they began their preparations for Saturday's match at Soldier Field.

Ireland finished their 2015/16 campaign with a 2-1 June series loss to the Springboks in South Africa, preceded by a third-place Six Nations finish.

Both Kiwi hookers expected their opposing rake, veteran Rory Best, to be a real handful.

"Seeing the way he plays, with an outrageous work rate, I've got a lot of respect for the guy," Coles said.

"I've always wanted to play against him."

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