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TKB looks to capitalise on NZ chance

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/11/2016 Angelo Risso
Kerr-Barlow © Getty Images Kerr-Barlow

All Blacks halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow has credited his stint with the Maori All Blacks with catapulting him back into Test selection.

The Chiefs gun, 26, will start from the first minute against Italy on Saturday after impressing boss Steve Hansen in last week's Maori All Blacks 54-7 victory over USA.

But it hasn't been all smooth sailing for the Waikato No.9, after a serious knee injury in 2014 almost put paid to his 2015 World Cup hopes.

Returning to the international scene in last year's Maori All Blacks clash with Fiji, he convinced Hansen of his World Cup worth and made five appearances deputising for Aaron Smith.

This year Kerr-Barlow has found himself behind Smith and TJ Perenara in the pecking order, playing only 25 minutes in two games as his side romped to the Rugby Championship.

But he was ready to change that on Saturday at Stadio Olimpico.

"They tell me when I get my opportunity to keep it really simple, go out there and nail my core roles, and that's when gaps and running opportunities become really obvious," Kerr-Barlow said.

"Halfbacks are naturally really competitive, but once the team is named we go into team mode and if you're not playing, it's about preparing the other two guys."

The 24-cap Kerr-Barlow also made three appearances for the Mooloos in 2016 before replacing a chastened Smith for his part in a Christchurch Airport toilet.

In that time he made four line breaks and two try assists, as well as 14 kicks.

"Got the opportunity to jump on the All Blacks tour again, and now I've got the opportunity to come out on Saturday and start so I just worry about what I worry about," Kerr-Barlow said.

Hansen said Kerr-Barlow had performed impressively in Chicago, distributing the ball with precision.

He was glad to have an abundance of options at scrum-half.

"I thought he played really well, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does," Hansen said.

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