Two of Caleb Clarke’s teammates have talked about the soft and relaxed character that makes up one of New Zealand rugby’s most aggressive ball carriers.
Clarke has played a mere two tests for the All Blacks, making his debut in the first Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington to kick-off the 2020 test season. But his startling performances have already drawn comparisons to Jonah Lomu with the athleticism and physicality he brings on the wing.
The 21-year-old was the star for New Zealand in their win in the second test, and will likely be the point of attack for the Wallabies in the third.
But while he is rampant on the pitch, Clarke’s international teammates Dane Coles and Sam Whitelock say he is a different beast off the field.
“He’s a pretty relaxed character, he was dancing in the gym this morning,” Coles says.
“He’s always happy and singing and dancing but he’s got the ability to flick the switch when it comes to game-time.
“The challenge for him will be to back it up and we’re hoping he can do something like that again.”
Wallabies players may struggle to agree with the notion of Clarke being a soft character. He ran for a game-high 123 metres in the second test – an average of 15.4 per carry – and broke 10 tackles, including five in one run which was converted into a try by Ardie Savea.
Clarke’s injection into the All Blacks has been a result of a stellar season in Super Rugby with the Blues, which saw him earn a perennial starting role in the left wing – form that has transferred over to the black jersey.
“He’s a big strong man … he’s impressive to watch when he’s running around the field,” Whitelock says.
“I’ve played him in Super Rugby and he’s a bit of a nightmare to try to tackle so hopefully he takes that form into the next couple of weeks.”
Clarke has a good chance of lining up in the third test in Sydney on Saturday, the third of four matches between the trans-Tasman rivals, which also kicks off the revamped three-team Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies need victory to stand any chance of claiming the silverware, which they have yet to lay fingers on in 18 years. Coles expects a revved-up Australian outfit back on home soil.
“The last three occasions (in Sydney) have been pretty good but we don’t have a great record in Australia, I think it’s like 58 per cent, so they do turn up on their home turf so we’re expecting a great battle,” the 33-year-old said.
“It will mean a lot to them being at home for the first time in front of their fans.
“The intensity will be raised from Eden Park – they will be up for it and we’ve got to make sure we match it.”