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Determined Donald Not Waving White Flag

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Mark Geenty of NZPA London, Dec 3 NZPA - The mere fact Stephen Donald will trot onto Twickenham in the All Blacks No 10 rugby jersey on Sunday (NZT) is something of a personal triumph. He's not ready to hand up the first five-eighth's role yet, as he and Chiefs teammate Mike Delany brace for a duel against the Barbarians. Donald was told to work on his second five-eighths skills as he sat on the bench for all five tests on this tour, but insisted he felt more comfortable at 10 and was willing to prove it against Wallaby Matt Giteau. "Maybe next year there will be times where I have a crack there with the Chiefs. I still see myself as a 10, that's where I am this week and I presume that's where I'll be starting off for the Chiefs," he said. "The fact I've been in the 22 every week, it's kept helping me out and the confidence is pretty good." From the highs of the Chiefs' run to the Super 14 final, to some sharp criticism of his efforts in the black jersey, then a total of just 26 minutes off the bench on the current tour before heading Delany for the starting role here - it's been some year. Donald took some of the criticism hard, but at the end of a marathon season, there was a feeling of some pride. "I've loved every minute of it. People might laugh at that and it hasn't been an easy road at times but I wouldn't change it for the world. I've had my ups and downs but I've experienced the week in, week out pressure on international footy," he said. "There's been some tough times but I think of Eden Park (against the Wallabies) and what it did for my confidence about playing at that level. "Even South Africa, we didn't get the results but I felt like I was growing there too. Then I started a Tri-Nations game at No 12 so she's been an interesting old one." After Donald's excellent Super 14 season -- which he says feels like "years ago" -- he was the logical replacement for the injured Dan Carter in the June tests. Then when Carter rumbled back into black, Donald's test future was uncertain after some up-and-down performances, and the emergence of Delany as a tour bolter. Delany got to wear 10 against Italy, while Donald got game time in Tokyo, Milan and the final minutes of the stunning 39-12 win over France. Said Donald: "You've just got to keep boxing on and have faith in yourself. There's enough going on that you could lose faith if you got caught up in it all. "You've just got to back yourself that you're there for a reason and you're a good footballer. That's how you get through it." He said a dose of realism came in handy, that the All Blacks were playing some of the best sides in the world throughout the season and there were torrid tests to negotiate every week. NZPA SYD mg co

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