All Black Taylor to focus on his game, not Marx
Even off the field‚ hookers tend not to give each other an inch.
However, All Black front-rower Codie Taylor seemed to back off when he was reminded he will face the best hooker on the planet when the tourists meet the Springboks in Pretoria on Saturday.
"Yeah. If the world thinks that‚ I suppose. He’s a great player‚" Taylor said about Malcolm Marx.
"I take my hat off to the way he plays. I don’t get caught up in that. If I play well, that’s what I focus on."
Some may find facing a player with Marx’s range of influence daunting but Taylor is more focused on keeping up his end of the bargain.
"It means you have to be on your game because you want to perform yourself‚" Taylor said.
"Knowing you are going up against a great player has its own motivations, I suppose, but I don’t want to get too caught up in that because you can bottle yourself into thinking that.
"He’s probably one of the key players in their pack," he said. "He can build a lot of momentum for them.
"We preview pretty much the whole team and we look at their strengths, and obviously he’s one of them.
"He’s great over the ball‚ he’s a threat with the ball in hand as well‚ as are their locks and their loosies," said Taylor.
"The way [Siya] Kolisi is playing as well‚ the way he is leading that pack around the field — he’s a huge confidence booster for them if he is playing well."
Taylor has been a reliable performer for the All Blacks since Dane Coles ruptured knee ligaments against France in 2017. In fact‚ he has been ruggedly durable for the Crusaders and the national team this season and does not look like letting up anytime soon.
"He’s probably tired of talking about himself‚" Ryan Crotty chipped in, sitting next to Taylor at a media conference.
"I’ve seen him go up another level this year‚" Crotty noted.
"Especially for the Crusaders — that’s a massive reason why we are successful on the defensive side of the ball.
"The leadership he’s taken around‚ driving the team defensively. He’s a very intelligent hooker. I’ll take him over Marx any day of the week."
Taylor has reason to smile this week.
Captain and reliable lineout target Kieran Read is back in the All Blacks squad after he was rested for last weekend’s clash against Argentina.
"He’s awesome‚" Taylor said of Read. "He’s one of the world’s best No8s — if not the best.
"His persona on the field and off is great for this group.
"In saying that‚ we had people who stepped up in that role last week.
"We had some late changes in the Argentine game and the boys stood up and handled the pressure pretty well.
"Reado [Read] is a great line-out option both on attack and defence," said Taylor.
"I think the combination is great because you have a Luke Whitelock who can step into that position seamlessly, which shows our depth in this squad."
The All Blacks will name their squad to play the Springboks on Thursday.