Ben Te’o happy to have cracked the code

Leinster centre pleased with adapting to rugby union as he nears Worcester move

Ben Te’o: the player earned respect from his Leinster team-mates over how he adapted to rugby union. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ben Te’o: the player earned respect from his Leinster team-mates over how he adapted to rugby union. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Ben Te’o takes three steps through the door and lands on his seat. Last time doing media? he is asked.

“I think it will be unless Guy [Easterby] signs me up again,” he says.

Before taking a step on Worcester soil for next season, Te’o is already on the radar of Eddie Jones. This week is probably the final time he will be asked on Irish soil to explain his journey through the rugby codes.

He’s pleased. He arrived in Leinster a rugby league player and he’s leaving as a union centre with a reputation.

“Frustrating,” said Girvan Dempsey earlier in the week of taking in a product of questionable worth and pushing out a high value union player who the English coach has already name checked.

Big mates with Eddie Jones then?

“All the time,” he smiles. “A couple of texts here and there. It’s nice he’s shown a little bit of interest. It is nice to be mentioned. I don’t right know if it has changed my thinking at all. Look I have got two regular season-games to go, then the final series.”

Te’o has surprised himself in how his game evolved with Leinster. His physical presence, development of awareness and his willingness to muck in and learn the intricacies has earned him respect where there was doubt.

But it has taken Te’o time and some bouts of questioning about whether he could make the adjustments asked of him. Last year’s World Cup may have cast a shadow over the domestic game. But when the international players were away, Te’o could, literally, play.

Full preseason

“There was a lot of really hard times in terms of the skill set and training and early days when sometimes I thought had I spent too long away and was this going to be a bit too hard. But I just really, really wanted to give it a good crack and I think I had to fall back in love with rugby [union] to really make sure I excelled.

“I hadn’t watched rugby [union] for a long time while I was a league player and I think the World Cup . . . I live with Noel Reid and we sat back and almost watched every game. I picked his brain about why did they do this, why did they do that . . . you know I fell back in love with rugby union again.”

Unlike Sam Burgess at Bath, Te’o’s slower emersion has paid off. Burgess will be remembered as the failed experiment, a warning to all converts that no matter how great the talent in league, the nuances, positioning and instincts in union count for as much.

Away from glare

“Yeah. I think so,” he says. “I had lot more experience, learning the steps. He [Burgess] went in pretty early, didn’t he? He was also playing two positions at once, so I can see how that would have been very difficult.

“I came in and there were probably some guys looking over their shoulder thinking ‘I don’t know about this guy’, but they all helped me and I’d have to say the majority, 80 per cent of all things I’ve learned in rugby union, has come from my team-mates.”

He might have stayed for his third year but he says a year is a long time. You don’t know what is around the corner. He said that it felt right moving to England.

The truth is he has been honest about it. It was the package, the money and the chance to play for England immediately. For a player who is 29-years-old, maybe another year is a year to many, especially from one who has never been in a club, league or union, for more than three seasons.

“If something happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t,” he says. “There is just another step forward.”

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