Nehe Milner-Skudder has admitted that fond memories of The British & Irish Lions are proving a potent motivation ahead of the 2017 Tour to New Zealand.
All Blacks winger Milner-Skudder enjoyed a gilded start to his Test career, scoring eight tries in eight New Zealand starts, including the opening score of the Rugby World Cup final.
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His progress was stalled by a dislocated shoulder joint sustained in March and though he is nearing full fitness, he has opted out of New Zealand’s end-of-season tour to ensure he is primed when the Lions arrive next June.
The 25-year-old insisted the decision to give up on a potentially immediate return to the All Blacks fold was made easier by the prospect of a visiting Lions side.
"I’m gutted that I’m not going to be playing again this year, but there is a bigger picture with a lot happening next year and in particular The British & Irish Lions," the Hurricanes winger explained.
"They only come down here every 12 years and the first time they came down here was in 1888 so there is more than 120 years of history right there.
"Their team will be full of class with the best players from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, so there is going to be some great matches and hopefully the Hurricanes can do what the Brumbies did five years ago in Australia and tip them up in the midweek game.
"The fact of how well the northern hemisphere teams are going right now and to pick the best of the best and put them in one team will make for an exciting series, not only the tests, but the midweek matches and the New Zealand Maori having a crack as well.
"I remember Dan Carter carving up in the Cake Tin in 2005, he just killed it. I guess everyone will be excited to see who will be the next superstar who makes a name for himself during that tour. It’s going to be awesome to watch."
When the Lions arrived in Palmerston North to face Manatawu in 2005, Shane Williams and Jason Robinson were the chief architects of a 109-6 win.
Though Williams grabbed five tries, it was England World Cup winner Robinson who stuck in Milner-Skudder’s memory, while the atmosphere of the visiting Lions fans is an enticing prospect for the wing.
"I remember 2005 really vividly when the Lions toured here and watching them put a pretty big score on Manawatu in that midweek game," he explained.
"Jason Robinson was a little nippy fella and I sort of modelled my game on him. He dotted down four times that night.
"I think they put a hundy on Manawatu that night and Robinson was just carving up, but also the fans, the Barmy Army got pretty rowdy and the atmosphere just looked amazing.
"The way they support their teams over in the Northern Hemisphere they will bring that down here and I guess us Kiwis get a chance to be a part of that, which is cool."