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Older, Wiser Flynn Celebrates Long Road Back

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Fuseworks Media
Corey Flynn
Corey Flynn

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Milan, Nov 13 NZPA - As All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn strolled the streets of London a year ago, arm in plaster, he thought of chucking rugby in.

Again, in Canberra in February when he broke his left arm for a fourth time, he contemplated retirement.

But at the age of 28, and a father-of-two, Flynn's perspective is wider, and wiser.

It got him through more rounds of rehabilitation, which involved plenty of boxing to strengthen the arms, and booked him a spot on the current tour.

Now, early on Sunday (3am NZT) against Italy at San Siro here, Flynn will make his first run-on start in a rugby test since the 2003 World Cup, a remarkable six years between drinks.

Flynn cast his mind back to the Munster match a year ago, his last in black, when he suffered the complete fracture of the radius and left the tour with an uncertain future.

"I did some sightseeing in London straight after that with some mates. I left the team while they prepared for the Twickenham test and that thought crept into my mind," he said.

"But once I watched the test it was erased pretty quickly, the whole 'not again' thought. It's pretty special and we're pretty lucky to do what we do and it's rugby, it's a contact sport and things happen."

That positive attitude was required a few months later against the Brumbies when the arm cracked again. Flynn told Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder he just had to get away and let it heal.

No rugby training, just Flynn pounding the streets for base fitness, and focusing in his home life.

"I had an outside view looking into the team, and we had our second child so I had six months at home with the family and that was really good for the mental side.

"When I got back to the NPC it was always a goal, but if I didn't make it I wasn't going to be hard on myself because I'd only been back a few months."

So, thanks partly to a Keven Mealamu injury, Flynn's name was read out last month as he sat with his children, a quiet air of pride and content. In his words, the "warm fuzzies".

He felt he had plenty more to offer now, despite his two damaged arms which require two Victor Matfield-style forearm guards, than when he debuted against Canada in Melbourne as a 22-year-old.

"When you're a young kid and just cracking in, rugby's your whole life and you don't have those life experiences," he said.

"Now that I've been through a fair amount, not a lot of test rugby but I've been around the traps a fair while. Life experiences do make you a better footy player."

He's learned to be cautious, so Sunday's test amid 12 changes to the All Blacks is just a cautious stepping stone.

Just do your job, get around the park and throw accurately, and no talk of potentially challenging Andrew Hore's top hooker's spot.

"It's basically like a debut again. It's pretty cool.

"We'll get through this game first then we'll go from there. I'm not looking too far ahead, I've done that before and come up short. I've learned from my mistakes; learn to crawl before you can walk."

NZPA

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