Lienert-Brown Hails Ratima and Sititi's All Blacks Selection

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Centre Anton Lienert-Brown said he never takes being named for granted. It was always a special moment.

He was delighted to see fellow Chiefs Cortez Ratima and Wallace Sititi called up as debut players.

"Seeing them progress through this team, seeing how hard they work. They are so deserving."

With their selection and a core group in the Māori All Blacks team as well, Lienert-Brown commended the Chiefs organisation.

"There are a lot of people along the way who have helped us."

Coach Clayton McMillan had turned the side around, and when the team was doing well, successful individuals could thrive and advance to the next level.

Lienert-Brown said the Chiefs had gotten a taste of how England was likely to play in their Super Rugby Pacific loss to the Blues.

"A brutal upfront game is something you can expect from those hemisphere teams, but they've got x-factor in their backline as well."

He added that not having had the variety of opposition they had when South Africa was involved, the style the Blues played under Vern Cotter was a different variety that would help the All Blacks adapt to playing England.

Lienert-Brown, who was part of the NZ Under-20s, said new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson was coaching then, and they won the world championship, but since then, he had an excellent record with the Crusaders.

"I'm excited to be playing under someone with that success. He's energetic and I'm looking forward to soaking up that energy and getting in there ready to get better."

Halfback Cortez Ratima said it had been agonising listening to the names being read out, especially when so many players' surnames started with P.

He toured in 2022 with fellow halfback TJ Perenara in the All Blacks XV and looked forward to working with him again.

"Having a connection with him already definitely helps. I'm keen to get amongst all the guys I've watched while growing up.

"I'm still in shock and it hasn't even sunk in yet that I've been named. I think it'll get real once I get down there."

Loose forward Wallace Sititi, 21, was alone in his flat watching the team announcement on his iPad and said he was shocked when hearing his name.

But he was soon on the phone to his family, including father Semo, who played 59 Tests for Manu Samoa and had taken his family around the rugby world during his career playing for Wellington, the Hurricanes, Borders, Newcastle, and the Red Hurricanes in Japan.

"He was definitely happy. He was over the moon and shed a few teams. He told me that getting in was the easy part, the hard part is staying in there. He said to enjoy the moment but understand there is a lot of work to be done."

His mother, Rosalind, also had a sporting background, having played netball for Samoa, and he said she had significantly influenced him.

It has been a whirlwind season for him. He said he would have been happy playing one game in his rookie year with the Chiefs, but he said the All Blacks selection  was 'out of this world.'

"It's a dream come true. I've watched those guys play for a long time and Ardie Savea's been an inspiration of mine and I'm excited to see what we can do there."

He said he had a reality check at the start of the season because he wasn't fit enough and needed to make a significant shift.

He worked on that and, when getting time in games, was energised and able to stack his moments through games which was crucial to moving up to the next levels.