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Lienert-Brown praised for rise to NZ top

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/10/2016 Angelo Risso
Anton Lienert-Brown © Getty Images Anton Lienert-Brown

All Blacks young gun Anton Lienert-Brown has a sense of composure that belies his tender years, according to coach Steve Hansen.

The 21-year-old centre has gone from squad bolter to near-incumbent No.13 over the course of the Rugby Championship, impressing with his strength and offloading.

After debuting against Australia in Wellington two months ago, the Chiefs ace has gone on to shine in starts against Argentina and South Africa.

He nabbed six line breaks and three offloads against the Springboks as the side cruised to a 57-15 win in Durban, and three assists a week earlier in Argentina.

His performances on the road have forced Hansen's hand, with the coach naming him in his starting XV for Saturday's Bledisloe tussle with Australia.

Midfield teammate Malakai Fekitoa, meanwhile, takes a place on the bench.

Hansen said Lienert-Brown's midfield combination with second-five Ryan Crotty had borne fruit surprisingly quickly.

The onus would now fall on Lienert-Brown to maintain and improve his standards.

"His demeanour under pressure, the ability to cope with it for a young guy, his skillsets are complementing what we're trying to do," Hansen said.

"He's not the finished product by any stretch of the imagination but he's shown us plenty and he's getting reward for that."

Crotty, who lines up for the Crusaders at club level, also felt the partnership with Lienert-Brown was coming along well.

All midfielders worked especially hard to nail their combinations, but Lienert-Brown stood above the pack with his reliability.

"The strength in the carry, his ability to offload, and he's running some great lines so it's nice to be able to run off him," Crotty said.

Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane said he was stoked for his club teammate.

He said young players of Lienert-Brown's ability and demeanour seldom appear.

"There's no weaknesses to his game yet he's only 21, so he's only going to improve," the 24-year-old Cane said.

"He's got his head set firmly on his shoulders."

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