Super Rugby Pacific: All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax ready to step into Hurricanes leadership void

All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax has already had a small taste of the pressure on him, as he prepares for a new role in the New Zealand rugby landscape.

After an injury-plagued World Cup campaign that saw him barely reach the final against South Africa, Lomax has benefitted more than most from an extended summer break, but received the wake-up call at an early All Blacks camp under new coach Scott Robertson this month.

"It was good to get the 'Bronco' out of the way," he admitted. "Obviously, a new coaching staff there, so it was good to meet them, and see all the boys and hear about how they spent their summer.

Tyrel Lomax in action during the Rugby World Cup final.
Tyrel Lomax in action during the Rugby World Cup final. Photo credit: Photosport

"Jordie [Barrett] played about 100 rounds of golf. It was good to do all the meet-and-greets and the testing, and then focus on Super Rugby."

While Hurricanes teammate Cam Roigard aced the standard 1.2km shuttle run, reportedly equalling Beauden Barrett's standing record, Lomax reveals he finished at the other end of the field.

"I had 'Razor' [Robertson] standing on the sideline next to me, as I was running my Bronco, so that made me run a little bit faster," he reflected. "I was last."

You could probably forgive a 120kg prop from possessing the endurance and mobility of a halfback, but after spending two years establishing himself as a first-choice All Black, Lomax is keenly aware that more is expected of him in 2024.

That starts at the Hurricanes, where the forward pack has lost the services of longtime leaders Ardie Savea (Japan sabbatical) and Dane Coles (Japan, then retirement).

"Definitely, there are a couple of us that need to step up and try to fill that void," mused Lomax. "I don't know that you'll get the same ball-carrying out of me.

"We've got quite a young front row that has grown over the past couple of years. We've certainly got to push each other and I know a couple of them want to push for higher honours."

Helping the Hurricanes transition will be the return of veteran loose forward Brad Shields, who chalked up 100 games for the franchise from 2012-18, before leaving to chase his international prospects with England.

Masterton-born Shields, 32, played nine tests for England from 2018-19 and returned to Wellington the national provincial championship last year.

"It's quality having someone like Brad back in," said Hurricanes midfielder Jordie Barrett. "He's a Hurricanes centurion, an international player, and to get him back fit and healthy will be outstanding, particularly after losing plenty of leadership from last year.

"It's great to be able to call on someone like Brad, who's well respected and still has a lot to give onfield."

The Hurricanes open their 2024 Super Rugby Pacific account against Western Force at Perth on February 24.