Hong Kong – All Blacks legend Mils Muliaina said Friday he misses the intensity of Super rugby and would consider a return from Japan to the struggling Auckland Blues if he got the call.
The 31-year-old back who suffered an international career-ending shoulder injury during his 100th Test for New Zealand in last year's World Cup said he was loving Japan but still wanted to end his career in New Zealand.
“The shoulder's good and the door's always open,” Muliaina told AFP at a relaxed training session for the BGC Asia-Pacific Barbarians ahead of their match against English team Saracens in Hong Kong on Saturday.
“Being in Japan and not having to go through that physicality stuff, my body feels a lot better than what it has.
“I won't speculate on what's going to happen next year but I'd like to say that hopefully someone gives me a call and I'd go back.”
Blues coach Pat Lam has taken charge of the Asia-Pacific Barbarians for the Chartis Cup match this weekend.
“It's nice to have Pat here... He's a good bloke and a good man,” Muliaina said.
“If there was a spot I could easily go back. It was kind of like, is my phone ringing yet? ... But no, it wasn't ringing.”
Only the second All Black after current captain Richie McCaw to play in 100 Tests for New Zealand, Muliaina said he would be an “outstanding spectator” when he retired from international rugby in October.
A star for both the Blues and the Chiefs during his Super rugby career, he signed a two-year deal with Japanese club NTT Docomo knowing that would effectively mean the end of his international career after the World Cup.
“I'm enjoying the rugby in Japan. I'm enjoying the culture and the lifestyle as well. But the rugby's a bit different to what I'm used to in New Zealand,” he said.
“I didn't expect to miss it as much as what I have. The first month or so was pretty tough.
“I sort of always thought I'd finish my rugby career in New Zealand.”
He said he missed the competitiveness of Super rugby the most.
“It's a stupid thing to say but you kind of miss the feeling that you've just been beaten up,” he said.
Saturday's match is a chance for the utility back to reunite in the Barbarians with four other All Blacks in Jerry Collins, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Rico Gear and Troy Flavell.
Muliaina said he was watching developments in New Zealand with interest, as the All Blacks prepare for a tough three-match series against Ireland under new coach Steve Hansen.
Hansen, now at the helm after being assistant coach to Graham Henry for eight years, produced a new-look side for Saturday's opening Test, which is the All Blacks' first since claiming the World Cup eight months ago.
Scrum-half Aaron Smith, lock Brodie Retallick and left wing Julian Savea are the debutants in a side tasked with defending a 107-year history of never losing to Ireland.
“He's got different ideas and you'd hope to see something a little bit different to what (Henry) had,” Muliaina said.
On the choice of Sonny Bill Williams ahead of Ma'a Nonu in the midfield, Muliaina said he thought the centres were the best spot for the mercurial Williams even if Nonu should never be written off.
“Ma'a's had a big nine or so months... he'll be looking forward to having that little wee break from the big picture. But he's quality. When you get him at his best, he delivers,” he said.
All Blacks captain McCaw is due to play his 104th Test on Saturday, but Muliaina dismissed suggestions the 31-year-old loose forward might be nearing the end of his international career.
“At the moment he's got plenty more to offer. That's why he's been the best player in the world,” he said. – Sapa-AFP