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3rd April 2016

Q&A: Nehe Milner-Skudder – The latest HKFC 10s & World Cup winner

'Skudz' helped Penguins win the GFI HKFC 10s for the first time in 2013. Photo: PSI.

NEHE MILNER-SKUDDER was one of the seven 2015 World Cup-winning All Blacks who had competed in the GFI HKFC 10s earlier in their career. After helping Penguins win the Cup at Hong Kong Football Club in 2013, ‘Skudz’ broke through to even bigger stages in 2015, reaching the final in his debut Super Rugby season, scoring six tries at the World Cup and winning the inaugural World Rugby Breakthrough Player award.

 

Who approached you to play in the 2013 GFI HKFC 10s for Penguins and what had you heard about the event?

I was asked if I was keen by a few mates from Manawatu, like Lewis Marshall and Penguins legend Reece Robinson. I heard it was a well-known tournament that attracted a lot of world-class players. This was no different the year I went. I saw it as a great opportunity to go over and have a crack against some awesome players and experience Hong Kong.

There were a lot of nationalities in that Penguins squad. How did all these Kiwis, Aussies, English, Scots, Fijians and Tongans gel?

Everyone got along really well. The management put in place a schedule and the boys had a few bonding sessions early on and got to know each other really well. That set the platform for the week and showed when we took the field together.

What do you think gave the Penguins the edge that year, beating Tana Umaga's BGC Asia Pacific Dragons in the quarters and winning an amazing final against Samurai?

I think the boys really dug deep and pulled off crucial plays in key moments of the big games. We were definitely the underdogs, but there was plenty of belief.

Your career fast-forwarded in 2015. Why do you think you were able to stand out in Super Rugby and international rugby so quickly?

A lot of my success was definitely a credit to the management and players I had around me. They allowed me to play with confidence and encouraged me to express myself and play what was in front of me. Also, having no injuries and keeping my body in good nick helped and kept me out on the field.

How do you look back on winning the 2015 World Cup, especially for a guy who just started playing for the All Blacks months earlier?

Looking back on winning the World Cup was huge. It was a surreal moment and something I won't ever forget. In NZ, a lot of kids grow up dreaming of being an All Black and that was no different for me. To achieve that and top it off with a World Cup medal in such a short time is a dream come true.

What was it like playing with so many All Blacks legends in their last World Cup?

It was a massive buzz heading into the ABs environment and seeing all the players and guys you grew up watching and now I was playing alongside them. It was really special being able to be a part of some of the boys’ last campaign and time in the black jersey. It was a massive learning curve seeing how they conduct themselves on and off the field. I’ve definitely picked up a few things about preparing for big games and how to deal with high-pressure situations.

How rewarding was it to be named the first World Breakthrough Player of the Year in November?

Being named for this award was an honour and topped off an amazing year. I was nominated alongside some incredible players who easily could've it won it, as well. It was a massive achievement and I definitely wouldn't have been able to achieve all that without the support of my family, friends, coaches, management staff and teammates over the years.

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