Luke Romano opens up on Crusaders Super Rugby Pacific final game: ‘Just another game’

Luke Romano wants to set the record just before the Super Rugby Pacific final at a sold-out Eden Park on Saturday night. He’s not on a one-man, uh, crusade to prove the ultimate point to his former side and the coaches who rejected him.

The 36-year-old lock, set to play what will likely be his last match as a professional rugby player, is as aware as anyone of the central storyline he occupies for this highly anticipated final between perennial champions the Crusaders and idiots frequent the Blues. .

It is the first time that these two New Zealand rugby heavyweights have met in the final since the 2003 meeting won by the Blues. It was also the last time the Auckland side made it to the showpiece clash of the season.

BLUES

The New Blues All Blacks reflect on their special news at the start of the big final week.

Romano spent 12 years with the Crusaders (2011-21) and recorded 136 Super Rugby games for them en route to three Championships, five Grand Finals, three more post-season appearances and then consecutive Aotearoa crowns at the covid era.

READ MORE:
* Beauden Barrett calls for the Blues to be tight and bright for the Super Rugby Pacific final
* Blues manager Leon MacDonald predicts epic Super Rugby Pacific final against Crusaders
* The Blues are happy to have Luke Romano as a heavyweight for Super Rugby Pacific

And then before 2022, it was released, surplus to the needs of the red and black country. Not for the grateful Blues, however, who just had a few key holes to fill in their second row, and stung.

As has been well documented, it took a number of phone calls and a lot of metaphorical arm twisting for Blues coach Leon MacDonald (himself a Crusaders legend in his playing days) to persuade the veteran to lift the sticks and head to the big city to play with. a band he barely knew.

When Romano is not playing rugby, he likes to roam the Canterbury Highlands on the hunt, often with only his seven dogs and pansies for company. In Auckland, he kept his shot for par on the golf course as he immersed himself in a new hobby (and set himself to a 17 handicap in the process) around his day job.

Luke Romano:

Peter Meecham/Getty Images

Luke Romano: “I came here to do a job, it was to win Super Rugby, and that’s what my focus is on.”

And it’s been a roaring partnership. Romano loved his time with a burgeoning new team, and the Blues benefited immensely from his steely presence in the squad and our considerable us in the locker room and on the training paddock as they mounted a 15-game winning streak. to the final.

And now with just two teams left standing, Romano, who is expected to come off the bench again, isn’t about to lose his focus when all the balls are in play.

“I have a lot of history there, but I’m with the Blues now. I came here to do a job, it was to win Super Rugby, and that’s what I’m focused on,” he said after training on Tuesday. “You’re just playing another rugby team, and that happens to be a team I’ve played for for many years. But for those 80 minutes, it’s just work.

Just to be sure, Things pushed the big man. Was he sure it wasn’t just a little personal, with something more?

“There is… I’m competitive and I want to win,” he added with a smile. “I can’t get carried away with the emotion because it would distract the team. If I go out thinking “it’s the Crusaders, I want to beat them myself”, it won’t work. I have to do what is best for the team. The better team will win and I would hate to be the reason we potentially lose.

Luke Romano will tell his teammates before the final to silence the hype.

Matt King/Getty Images

Luke Romano will tell his teammates before the final to silence the hype. “It’s just another rugby game,” he said.

What Romano can talk about, and no doubt will this week, is why the Crusaders have such an incredible record in the Finals (they’ve never lost a playoff game at home and, under Scott Robertson, are chasing a sixth consecutive title).

“They’re really big on the details,” he explained. “That one percent that can be overlooked. Most of the time these games boil down to one or two key moments, and if you’ve done your homework and nailed those details in practice, when they come up you can take them and make them your moments.

“That’s what has always served the Crusaders well.”

The 31-game All Black and World Cup (2015) champion was asked what his message would be to teammates who don’t have his wealth of Finals experience.

“It’s just another rugby game,” he shot back. “If you put pressure on yourself through all the hype that surrounds these games, it can affect you. It’s another game, our game, and what we do individually and as a team, we’ve proven it works this Go out there and be yourself, and do what you do best, because that’s why you were chosen for this team.

Wise words, though Romano’s obvious joy in April when the Blues ended an 18-year drought to defeat the Crusaders in Christchurch indicated it was far from fair another one rugby match.

Helen L. Cuellar