"Call it your Second Home" - Mark Tele'a: All Blacks wing expects Eden Park advantage for second England Test - Ruck

“Call it your Second Home” – Mark Tele’a: All Blacks wing expects Eden Park advantage for second England Test

If there was ever a stadium that conveyed a sense of home field advantage, it is the awe-inspiring Eden Park for the ever-feared All Blacks. For 30 years, no team has been able to defeat New Zealand at the Auckland stadium, with England up next to try and end the streak when the two sides collide this Saturday.

The ‘Eden Park element’ has been a focal point within media sessions since England suffered a one-point defeat to New Zealand in Dunedin last Saturday. The likes of Maro Itoje, Ben Earl and head coach Steve Borthwick have all expressed their non-consideration of the record, yet the significance of the stadium is not lost upon those who call Auckland home.

Mark Telea of New Zealand runs at Jonny May of England during the Autumn International Series match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham, London on 19 November 2022 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

With a tattoo of the Auckland skyline across his forearm, All Blacks wing Mark Tele’a has a burning sense of pride for New Zealand’s ‘Sky City’. The 27-year-old came through the ranks at North Harbour, and progressed into the Blues Super Rugby squad in 2019. Tele’a’s Blues play their home matches at Eden Park, but the wing is excited to experience a packed out stadium and echoed his teammate Stephen Perofeta, in calling the venue his ‘second home’.

“You know, the Blues history, getting this first (Super Rugby) championship that we did, it took a while and to finally get one was mostly for our fans and stuff like that. You have a lot of blues boys that grew up in 09 (Auckland area code), and you’re going to call Eden your second home. I’ll be the same as him (Perofeta) to be honest.”

“It’s massive for the Blues boys to have all the fans and stuff like that to come out to the game, just want to do the best you can with the abilities that you have. So I guess it’ll be massive for the team to have one at Eden Park. We are facing an English side that’s real hungry, to put us to the sword. So it will be massive for our team, and mostly the direction that we want to head in.”

Mark Telea of New Zealand on the break during the Test Match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on August 25th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

The Eden Park record has stood the test of time, with the majority of the squad never living through an All Blacks Test match defeat in Auckland. The last loss at Eden Park was against France in 1994, with New Zealand having racked up a winning streak of 48 consecutive Tests and counting in the stadium. It will certainly be an unforgettable day for Tele’a, as the Blues wing gets set for his first Eden Park run out with the All Blacks.

There are plenty of Blues players within the squad, with the aforementioned likes of Stephen Perofeta joined by the back-line brigade of Tele’a, Reiko Ioane and Finlay Christie. Beuden Barrett has also been a stalwart for the Blues amidst seasonal sabbaticals out to Japan. Barrett is set for a Blues return in 2025, and Auckland fans were treated to a reminder that the fullback has still got his match-winning abilities in the tank.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: Beauden Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks scores his sides second try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Semi Final match between South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on October 24, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Steve Bardens – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Barrett lifted the tempo at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, when he replaced Perofeta in the 50th minute against England. Barrett slotted back in to his fullback slot with ease, despite having run the Toyota Verblitz attack from 10 for parts of the season. Tele’a described the playmaker as a calming presence that can settle the nerves and decide Test matches, and was delighted to see him come off the bench in the narrow win over England.

“I guess we’re lucky to have someone like Baz, both as a more experienced player and you know, just having him come back in and just gelling well for us, and telling us where the spaces were, and how to put pressure back on another team. So yes you may assume he has that kind of impact into a game, with that experience. And this means we have him around to help.”

“I guess that’s some of the experience that he has, you know. A lot of us are quite like young players coming through. I guess him and Stephen (Perofeta) will be having a lot of chats on how to control moments, and stuff like that against them (England).”

Ever looking forward to the next challenge, Tele’a discussed how the All Blacks are not dwelling on their mistakes from last Saturday. Despite coming away on the winning side of the score-line, New Zealand’s 16-15 victory over England was anything close to one-way traffic, as had fate fallen upon Steve Borthwick’s side, England could have secured their first win against the All Blacks upon New Zealand soil in 21 years.

Yet the streak goes on, with England eager to end two long-standing records on Saturday. An area that Tele’a is hoping to overcome, is the formidable pace of the English line-speed. With former Springboks coach Felix Jones orchestrating the defence, the likes of Sam Underhill and Chandler Cunningham-South were flying out of the line, and did their best efforts to the passing supply to Tele’a, who waited frustratedly on the wing.

Mark Telea of New Zealand is tackled by Cobus Reinach of South Africa during the Test Match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on August 25th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“That’s always a hard thing because you see so much space, and your like ‘oh damn, can you try and get the ball there’. But then that space just goes like that, so fast, and that’s the kind of defence that we’re facing. I guess as players you just try and adapt, try and get better and try to pick the space off.”

“I think that’s the modern game, to be honest. You try and get involved where you can, and if the ball comes to you, it comes to you. You try and impact the game the way you can.”

“Even if you don’t get the ball you know, you’re still in that space. It takes a lot of work to get into those pitches. So wherever you can get involved to be honest.”

Mark Telea of New Zealand breaks clear of Trevor Nyakane of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade De France, Paris, France on 28 October 2023 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

“We knew it was going to be hard (against England). We know that it’s not going to be easy. I guess it’s better coming off a win than a loss. Just build confidence and decide on the team and the beliefs that we have.”

“We can’t dwell on last week. Last week is last week, and you know, you don’t want to be there. We will be the (better) team, but we just faced a loss. So we want to better ourselves each day, and then hit into the weekend ready to play. So we’ll look forward to the weekend.”