"George Furbank was impressive" - Stephen Perofeta: All Black was stunned by England Fullback in first Test - Ruck

“George Furbank was impressive” – Stephen Perofeta: All Black was stunned by England Fullback in first Test

There were plenty of positional battles within England’s first Test against New Zealand, as Ben Earl and Ardie Savea clashed in a bruising battle of the back-rows and Marcus Smith went tee-to-tee in a miss-firing shoot-out with Damian McKenzie. Also in the mix was an enticing conflict at fullback, as George Furbank and Stephen Perofeta clashed for the right to claim back-field dominance.

Furbank and Perofeta are at similar points in there careers, as the two 27-year-olds have only established a foothold within their national set-ups within the past two years. Whilst Furbank has accrued eleven caps to that of Perofeta’s three, the Northampton Saints’ man has only emerged as a consistent Test match footballer within the Steve Borthwick era, after sporadic appearances throughout Eddie Jones’ seven year reign.

George Furbank of England the England Rugby Training at Twickenham Stadium, London on 16 February 2024 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

As the adage goes ‘game recognises game’, and Perofeta praised the efforts of his opposite man last Saturday in Dunedin. The All Black expects more of the same from the Northampton Saint when the two sides meet at Eden Park, as Perofeta spoke with the reporting media this morning in Auckland.

“Yeah, George Furbank was impressive. His running ability and his strength through the contact side of things was pretty good. And it set the England attack alight to be honest. And we expect it. And it’s probably something we’ll expect again this week.”

Whilst Perofeta picked out Furbank as a threat amongst England’s attack, the Blues man was also opinionated upon the defensive structure of Steve Borthwick’s side. It is steadily becoming Test match rugby’s worst kept secret that England defence coach Felix Jones has implemented a ferocious line speed to his squad, with the likes of Sam Underhill and Chandler Cunningham-South flying out of the line to make a clattering hit on an unfortunate halfback.

Perofeta skipped passed a couple of tackles, yet still came under the cosh in such scrutinised circumstances. He took some heavy hits from the aforementioned flanking duo, as well as stand-out collision with Ben Earl, after Perofeta irritated the Saracen with an earlier side-step.

The Auckland All Black was feeling black and blue after a hard 50 minute hit out, and was replaced by Beauden Barrett for the final half hour of the match. Perofeta addressed his experiences of riding the relentless wave of England’s line-speed, and laid down the marker on how his side are preparing to navigate the choppy waters at the home of the Blues this Saturday.

“We talked about the pressure of a provided through their line speed. And it’s always different when you’re actually in the match when it’s alive. Because yeah, they bought some serious line speed and it did push us at times.

“And I think, looking ahead and building on this week for us to find ways on how to negate that. But on Saturday, you know, when they were crucial times, we pressured them in the right ways through our kicking game, and the times that they’ve managed to get the ball to the edge. 

“You know, they scrambled well, so. Baz (Beauden Barrett) come on at a crucial time, you know, that’s what he does best there, is vision and execution of his kicks.”

Perofeta calls Eden Park his ‘second home’, as his Super Rugby club side enjoy their home games at the immense Auckland amphitheater. However, the Blues rarely bring a full house to Eden Park, with Perofeta expressing how he had only felt the buzz of the sold out fortress upon a couple of occasions. Saturday is certainly set to bring a full house when England eye up a Test series equaliser, and Perofeta would be grateful to once again experience the opportunity.

“Certainly, yeah. In a way, that’s how I treated it. This could be my only chance, my last chance, I think I want to just to make the most of it, express myself, enjoy, smile, and be free.”

“If I’m privileged and get the blessing and honour again, yeah, it’ll be pretty exciting. Eden Park when it’s packed out is a different atmosphere and I haven’t played at Eden Park when it’s packed A lot, maybe twice before this week. Hopefully. But yeah, the buzz is there the buzz is Yeah, it’s real energy, the energy is high.” 

“Again, I’d be honoured and excited for the challenge and knowing it’s at what I call my second home. And the fans in Auckland, they are real passionate and seeing them fill up Eden Park will be pretty special.”

Perofeta recently gained the opportunity to play in front of a sold-out Eden Park, as he was amongst the Blues side that battled the Chiefs in the 2024 Super Rugby Final. The fullback started in the 15 jersey and enjoyed the full 80 minutes upon the garden of Eden, as the Blues hammered home an emphatic 41-10 win over the Hamilton side.

Leading the line for the runner-up Chiefs was Damian McKenzie, as the fly-half slotted the sole conversion following his side’s single try. McKenzie has gone from Eden Park opponent to teammate in a quick turnaround, and Perofeta expressed how he is ironing out the creases with his new Test match counterpart.

“The environment is definitely, when there’s a packed out stadium, it could feel… there’s a lot of eyes, a lot of pressure, the stakes are higher, which is definitely correct. But I think one thing I think about is, it’s a big occasion. But I’m not trying to play the occasion. 

“I’m just wanting to back my preparation, and play the beautiful game of rugby. And that was kind of similar to last week’s Test with my mind frame and just being real clear on what I needed to achieve.”

“I haven’t had much experience with him (Damian McKenzie) at all, to be honest. Reflecting, I thought it run pretty smoothly. I enjoy the part of the game where he’s able to just play what’s in front and where I could help out wide, it’s just around the control around how we kick and when we can apply pressure down in the England side of the field.”