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Hard work pays off for Lienert-Brown

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/08/2016

Anton Lienert-Brown with the ball during the World Rugby U20 Championship match. © Marco Luzzani/Getty Images Anton Lienert-Brown with the ball during the World Rugby U20 Championship match. When Anton Lienert-Brown was recuperating from a shoulder injury throughout 2013, there's little doubt playing for the All Blacks would have been furthest from his mind.

But the Chiefs young gun credits the hard work and determination to recover from that injury as the foundation to his rapid rise through the rugby ranks which has led him to an All Blacks debut against the Wallabies in Wellington on Saturday night.

"I believe if you're willing to work hard then good things will come," the 21-year-old second five-eighth said on Thursday after being named in a new-look back line that also sees the return of Julian Savea and Ben Smith switch to fullback and Israel Dagg move to right wing.

"I look back to that particular time and think the hard work I put in has been the foundation for what has happened."

The former Christchurch Boys High first XV player made his debut for the Chiefs in 2014 and had been on All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's radar for a while.

"I don't think someone like Anton is going to go unnoticed," said Hansen - a former Christchurch Boys High student, who has two sons attending the school as well. "All of us knew who he was. That's because of what he did on the playing field."

While injuries to Sonny Bill Williams, George Moala, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty have played a part in Lienert-Brown being selected for the second Bledisloe Cup Test this weekend, Hansen said the coaches were confident he would deliver after being impressed by his performances throughout this year's Super Rugby campaign.

"He's good enough to be here and now he gets an opportunity, probably a little earlier than he would have and we would have expected, but we're very confident that he will go out and do the job."

A "nervous and excited" Lienert-Brown, who is the first of the 2015 crop of New Zealand under-20 players to make the All Blacks, said the key thing for him was not to get overwhelmed by the occasion at Westpac Stadium and to "back my processes and just trust in that and what I've done throughout Super Rugby".

First-five Beauden Barrett has worked closely with his new teammate this week to help get him up to speed.

"There's no doubt we've had a meeting or two to get on the same page," the Hurricanes No.10 said. "It's only his second week in camp so a lot of things are new to him.

"It's very exciting for him and I just encourage him to go out and play footy and not think too much."

Lienert-Brown's family will come up from Christchurch for Saturday's match. "I just hope that I can put a performance out there that they will be proud of and the boys will be proud of as well," he said.

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