Ahead of Saturday’s third test against New Zealand, Newcastle Falcons and England prop Kieran Brookes talks about living the dream of playing international rugby against the current World Champions.
Brookes, 23, picked up his first international cap last Saturday as a replacement for England in their second test against the All Blacks. He explains: “I was nervous right up until kick off but then as that whistle blows it’s just like any other game. It only really sunk in that I’d just played for England in the changing rooms after the match!”
For Brookes one of the most daunting experiences happened before kick-off when he lined up to face the famous New Zealand Haka; “Facing the Haka was a great experience, especially at Dunedin in such a big game! As well as playing for England, facing the Haka was always a boyhood dream for me, and to finally have done it is amazing.”
With the 40 man having spent just under a month in the Southern hemisphere, the international tour has been an experience to remember for the young forward. “It’s going really well. I absolutely love New Zealand and it’s great to experience their culture and how much they love their rugby. It’s their winter here but it’s still warmer than Newcastle!”
Despite making his debut late in the game, plaudits including England forwards coach Graham Rowntree have been quick to praise Brookes and his fellow replacements for their impact on the match.
Speaking of his own performance Brookes said: “I think it went well and I’m absolutely delighted to make the bench again this weekend. I’ll hopefully get a little bit longer on the field and try to make a bit more of an impact.”
Having returned to the north east in early 2013 following a stint at Leicester Tigers, Brookes believes that the club has played a big part in enabling him to pursue his England ambitions. “I feel my game has improved a lot since coming back and working closely with John Wells and Micky Ward.
“The players create a great learning environment too; senior players like Bobby Vickers, Ally Hogg, Scott MacLeod and Carlo Del Fava have all helped me massively over the past year and I owe a lot to them for taking the time out to help me.
“Also the conditioning side of training with Kev (McShane) and Andy (Perry) has benefited me a lot! Working hard on specific parts of my conditioning which needed improving meant I could do my job better and for longer.”
With a return to the UK drawing closer on the horizon and his Falcons team mates already back in pre-season training ahead of the 2014-15 season, Brookes is already looking forward to putting his summer experience to good use for the club. “I think this season is going to be great. Dean has made some cracking signings and I just can’t wait for it to begin so we can start climbing up that table!”
England’s third test against New Zealand kicks off at 8.35am BST (7.35pm NZST) this Saturday, 21 June. The match will be shown live on Sky Sports with Twitter commentary available via the official Newcastle Falcons Twitter feed.