Saturday 20 July 2019

Te'o focuses on more improvement

Leinster's Ben Te'o during squad training
Leinster's Ben Te'o during squad training
Leinster’s Jamie Heaslip, left, and Dominic Ryan go through their paces in training
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ben Te'o has been one of, if not the brightest spark in what has largely been a disappointing season for Leinster and the rugby league convert already has his sights set on making further improvements.

In just his first season playing union, the New Zealander has planned a busy summer for himself as he looks to fine-tune his skill-set even further.

The 28-year-old has impressed outside of Ian Madigan and despite Leinster not competing for the Pro12 title, he is remaining positive about next season's prospects, both from a personal and a team point of view.

"Unfortunately, we can't go for the Pro12 final, but for me, it's been a big move and I'm happy with how I've adjusted so far," Te'o said.

"I still think I've a lot to work on, but I've realised that changing habits at an older age is quite tough as well.

"Defensively, how my tackle technique has been honed over the years - changing it to rugby, in terms of chopping lower and that sort of stuff.

"Running the ball, presenting the ball, those are things that just need a bit more time. All the time I'm learning something new.

"I've proved to myself that I could excel at professional rugby and that was always going to be a big challenge.

"I've come a long way, but what I can do with a break and a really, really good pre-season is to get in tune with my body and skill-set. Then I can come back next season and prove what I can really do.

"Once you've played some games you know yourself and you think, 'This is where I can really find some improvement in the off-season'.

"I can change my body a bit, really work on some aspects of my game. I have probably been identifying a lot of things and I definitely want to go away and work on them and then come back," he added.

With Leinster's back-line set to be bolstered by the return of two former heroes in Johnny Sexton and Isa Nacewa, Te'o is relishing playing alongside both.

The powerful outside centre is only too aware that the more senior players must lead by example at the start of next season during the World Cup period and despite it just being his first season at the province and indeed in the sport, Te'o is ready to step up to the mark.

"It's a disappointing end to the year but all you can do is just be positive, look ahead to having a good pre-season and linking up with those kind of players (Sexton and Nacewa)," Te'o maintained.

"I'm sure he's (Sexton) going to bring a lot to the organisation and I am excited. I'm excited to play with everyone and I have definitely heard good things about him.

"Leinster have always done well in those periods, though probably not this year. But the senior guys - and I am obviously one of them - and I will be a bit more comfortable next year in my role in the team.

"Hopefully, we can collect the points at those stages because we need them and we ran out of time this year."

Te'o has already represented Samoa at international level in rugby league, but he hasn't ruled out one day playing for Ireland.

"I don't know the rules or how the eligibility works. I have to see. I am quite enjoying union. I'm open to a lot of things. If I'm good enough I would love to play," he admitted.

"Everyone wants to play in the big games and the international scene is the biggest spectacle in rugby. Yeah, you'd love to do it. If someone thinks you're good enough to do it, yeah, why not?"

Irish Independent

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