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My Life in Rugby: Craig Newby – former Leicester and All Black flanker

Craig NewbyThe thing I loved most about the Tigers was that it was all about the Leicester way, we had the attitude of everyone hates us and we don’t care, and we loved that.

In New Zealand everything is geared around the All Blacks and what’s best for them but at Leicester it was all about the Tigers and that’s where I think I played my best rugby.

Playing with that attitude we made four Premiership finals in my time there, winning two and losing two and I was lucky enough to be captain in 2011.

That was a huge honour but it was more of a ceremonial thing. With players like Geoff Parling, Dan Cole, Toby Flood and Geordan Murphy there were leaders all over the pitch, but to lead the team out at Twickenham was very special.

In 2009 we reached the Heineken Cup final and while we lost, I don’t see it as a regret, we couldn’t have played any better but Leinster were just three points better on the day.

The semi-final against the Blues will be remembered for the drama of the penalty kicks but for me the thing that lingers is the Millennium Stadium atmosphere.

But it was a hollow victory after the kicks, that’s not really how you want to win.

I was more than happy to take a kick, I always fancied myself as a bit of a kicker and Paul Burke, the kicking coach, came over and said I’d be the first forward taking one – it was pretty straightforward to be honest.

My rugby career started in North Harbour and with the Blues but I made my name in Sevens, and I got my first taste of rugby at Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games.

We’d prepared well for that – six weeks of some of the hardest training I’d ever done and we fought our way to the final and beat Fiji for the gold.

We missed the closing ceremony but made it to the after-party and those were some celebrations, I think we were smashed for about two days.

Things didn’t really work out for me at the Blues but I moved to the Highlanders and I enjoyed some good years playing as Super Rugby was really growing as a competition.

I only won three New Zealand caps but I was playing in a position with Richie McCaw and Marty Holah ahead of me. If they’d been rubbish players I’d be beating myself up but I can’t really say that about those two.

I won my first cap back at Eden Park in 2004 but I’d been on holiday in Fiji after the Super Rugby season, drinking, eating, fishing and playing pool and getting out of shape.

I got the call that Richie was injured and could I join the squad and of course I jumped at the chance and then slogged my guts out to get into shape and I came off the bench against England.

Leaving New Zealand wasn’t about not making the All Blacks, it was more to do with having enough of playing rugby there. But if I’d played internationally, I probably wouldn’t have played for Leicester – I’ve got no complaints with how it worked out.

I felt I had another year left but the knee eventually caught up with me.

But I’ve started a new challenge with Cambridge. It’s a big challenge and it’s all new to me as a head coach but I’m loving every minute of it and learning as I go.

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