Year Of New Experiences   23 Jun 2004

by Mark Hotton

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The last 12 months have been good for Taine Randell, something he readily admits as he sits in a London bar sipping a pint.

There’s the new city, the new club, and of course, the new family member. While Saracens, his London-based team struggled and finished 10th in the Zurich Premiership – and had several players sacked mid-season – the former All Blacks, Highlanders, and Otago captain has kept his form and played well.

Which is something he is happy about, as are his team mates who voted him the players’ Player of the Year for the club.

His first year in London might have been a "settling in period" but the move to England was not as difficult for him and wife Joanne as it could have been.

"London is different but it’s not a good or a bad different. It’s just different," he says. And that goes for the rugby too, with the English weather playing more than a significant role in how the game is played.

Games might start at 3pm, but because of the early darkness, they are played under lights. Little surprise then that the English game is so forward dominated, Randell says.

"There’s more emphasis on set pieces and good strong forward play because it’s vital to keep the dew-covered ball close."

There is little surprise that type of play is reflected in the national team’s style. As a result, there’s more emphasis on strength as opposed to fitness, which means he is stronger than when he played in New Zealand.

Randell enjoys playing in the UK and believes the level of rugby, depending on the team, was about the equivalent of first division NPC, "a bit below Super 12".

That doesn’t mean the pressure is any less though.

"There’s the pressure of relegation, the pressure from fans and the pressure you put on yourself. It is different to New Zealand … it’s, well less intense.

London is a world away from Dunedin, although the leafy suburb of Hampstead, where Randell and Joanne have made their home, is similar to parts of Dunedin – apart from the traffic, people, and noise.

But Randell is happy with his decision to move to London. "It’s probably been everything we would have hoped for."

Both he and Joanne have settled in well, and after the birth of their first child Lanson, in January, it seems everything is falling nicely into place for them.

Randell has another season left on his contract at Saracens and expects to take up the option of a third with the club, which is in a rebuilding stage.

He’s also enjoying some stints in front of the cameras providing analysis during Super 12 games for Sky Sport – which screens some games live in the UK. He’s also going to do some work during the NPC season when he can fit it in.

He has watched the last two All Black tests with interest. But there are certainly no regrets and he’s full of praise for the new captain, Tana Umaga, who was his All Blacks vice-captain in 2002.

"The preference is a forward with experience but Umaga has done a commendable job in the past. He’s a proud All Black, and he’ll do a good job as captain."

Randell also likes the look of the squad, and points to the forward pack strong enough to compete against England as evidence of the thought that’s gone into the team.

"If you look in the locks you’ve got genuine grafters, set piece players who will win line out ball."

Playing against strong English rugby players is something he’s getting used to which will be handy over the next couple of years.

While he knows what he is doing for the next two years, beyond that both he and Joanne have got no firm plans and are happy to see how things develop. She’s taking a break from her career as a solicitor and is a full time mother at present. He’s not sure what he’ll do after rugby – although his eyes light up at the mention of house-husband. It might sound strange for a former All Blacks captain to be content with staying at home with his son, but it seems Randell would be more than happy with that – although it’s unlikely he would give the game away completely.

He’s lucky he’s remained relatively injury free in recent years. He had an arthroscopy on a knee recently and had "a bit of rubbish removed" but apart from that is in good health. As a young All Black captain Randell had a rough time after the 1999 World Cup and it seems only now that is starting to appreciate what it was he actually achieved.

"I’m very proud of the fact that I’m an All Black and very proud to have been a captain. "They were great times. At the time you don’t really appreciate that because you’re too busy trying to play well and don’t notice what it is you’re achieving."

In fact, he admits it wasn’t until he took part in a photo shoot with all living All Black captains that he realised the significance of what he had done.

"Getting a copy of the photo and I’m there with Colin Meads, Wilson Whineray and Fred Allen and Kevin Skinner, that’s what brought it home.

"That’s when it really sunk in."

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left by Flea 3 Mar 2009

I know them, Lanson goes to our school now. He doesn't really look like that now obviously. Taine came to our school and talked about leading the allblacks. He is really funny

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