WARRIORS centre Ben Te’o is relishing the British and Irish Lions’ first Test against New Zealand on Saturday at Eden Park (kick-off 8.35am).
The powerful back has been named in the starting line-up for Warren Gatland’s side following three impressive displays against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, the Crusaders and the Maori All Blacks, where he ended up on the winning side every time.
The 30-year-old is currently leading the way for the Lions in clean breaks (nine), defenders beaten (14), offloads (seven) and metres gained (200).
Having switched codes from Rugby League in 2014, Te’o has went onto rise through the ranks in Rugby Union, becoming a fan favourite at Warriors, picking up eight caps for England and being selected to tour with the Lions.
“I’m very humbled and proud to be named in this team alongside so many world-class players. From when selections were made I was not thinking that I would be involved, so it came as quite a shock,” said Te’o.
“Once I got on the plane, I realised I had to try and seize every opportunity I got and that every game was a trial match. I’ve just tried to play my best rugby. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m happy I’ve done enough for the coaches to show some faith in me.
“But it’s only the beginning now. The real test is coming on Saturday and I’m fully aware of that. I understand the record, their standing in the game at the moment and just where the All Blacks are at in terms of their rugby.
“It’s going to be tough and we’ll have to be at our best compared to them.
“I would say I’m close to my peak but there’s still a lot to learn. Every time you step up in bigger games you keep learning little things. I’ll learn a lot on Saturday and if I get another opportunity I’ll learn again, so I’m quite anxious and ready to face it,” he added.
Auckland-born Te’o, who will line up against Sonny Bill Williams in a mouthwatering midfield match-up, will have Kiwi family at Saturday’s game, but insists they will be following the tourists.
“I grew up just up the road and played a bit of rugby at the QBE Stadium in Auckland, so I know it well. But I left here at 17 and have gone on a long journey,” he added.
“I’m here now with the Lions. I wouldn’t say it’s anything different. I’ve got some family here and they’re looking forward to the game. They’ll be kitted out in the Lions gear, so they know who to support.”