Kiwi captain Adam Blair has stood by his previous remarks on defector Jason Taumalolo, maintaining the star lock had betrayed the black jumper by switching allegiances to Tonga for the Rugby League World Cup.
Blair and Taumalolo, former Kiwis teammates, will face-off on Saturday in what is likely to be one of the more explosive games in World Cup history.
The 24-year-old, a Dally M medallist and the world’s premier forward, caused an uproar in New Zealand after his controversial last-minute decision. Blair was especially incensed by Taumalolo’s snub.
He had previously expressed the view that Taumalolo betrayed the Kiwis, and wasn’t “man enough” to tell coach David Kidwell of his decision in person.
The 31-year-old Blair told reporters on Friday he hadn’t changed his mind on anything he said, but had mellowed over the past five weeks.
His side needed to play calmly to beat Mate Ma’a, who can call upon another trio of defectors in David Fusitu’a, Manu Ma’u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
“It all happened pretty quickly - it’s now pretty much a month ago. Again, I stand by what I said, it was in the heat of the moment,” Blair said.
“I’m passionate about the Kiwis and, for me, I want people that are passionate about the Kiwis as well - I’ve got a group of 24 (here) that are real passionate.
“We’re doing a really great job with how we go about our business.”
Despite his previous harsh words, Blair didn’t believe that Tonga would seek him out for special treatment in Saturday’s Hamilton Test.