Anton Lienert-Brown's making a solid case to be the All Blacks starting centre for the big games to come at the Rugby World Cup.
The 24-year-old was superb in the opening victory against the Springboks in Yokohama, making the most running metres (62), beating eight defenders and setting up the second try for Scott Barrett with a tremendous jinking run.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Christchurch-product's made an instant impact on the world’s biggest stage.
Coach Steve Hansen has labeled him the in-form midfielder of the group and that's been backed up by Lienert-Brown's incredible stat-line at the Chiefs this season.
Playing mostly at second-five, Lienert-Brown was an attacking weapon in Super Rugby, leading the competition in offloads, while finishing third in most runs and fourth in tackle busts.
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With established skipper Liam Messam no longer at the franchise, and co-captains Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick out injured for most of the season, Lienert-Brown had no choice, but to step up to a leadership role.
And it wasn’t an easy ride, as the Chiefs went through their first five games without a win.
"They always say tough times make you stronger and it definitely has for me," Lienert-Brown said. "And I learnt a lot."
That experience has made it easier for Lienert-Brown to come into the All Blacks environment and be a strong voice, even among more established players.
"It is less daunting and I'm more confident to say what's on my mind. In the past years, I probably just keep it to myself, but I think the more everyone I can contribute, the better for the team."
Ryan Crotty and Lienert-Brown made their ninth start together at Yokohama Stadium on Saturday night, and make the perfect pair, with the former's solid defence and the latter's sparkling offence.
The veteran Crusader has been a great influence, says Lienert-Brown.
"He's obviously a massive part of the All Blacks, especially for me. He guides us in the right direction, so I'm hugely appreciative of what he's done."
Assistant coach Ian Foster says he and Steve Hansen know their strongest midfield combination, but aren't willing to share that publically.
The way Lienert-Brown has played in 2019 and continues to evolve, you'd be surprised if he's not part of that mix, but the man himself has a team-first attitude.
"Obviously, we all want to be starting, but four doesn’t fit into two, so it's about whoever starts preparing themselves well for that week."
Join us at 10:15pm Monday for live updates of the Rugby World Cup match between Wales and Georgia