It’s been a whirlwind few years for Blues rookie Anton Segner since he first arrived in New Zealand from Germany on what was meant to be a six-month exchange at Nelson College in 2017.
Since then, the outstanding 20-year-old loose forward has blossomed into one of New Zealand rugby’s hottest young properties who has an eye on becoming Germany’s first All Black.
Segner hasn’t shied away from his aspirations of playing for the All Blacks in the past, after having already represented New Zealand at schoolboy level in 2018 and 2019, and then at U20 level last year.
However, the Frankfurt-born product reaffirmed his desire to play for the All Blacks while speaking to media on Tuesday as he prepares for his debut season in Super Rugby Pacific.
“At the moment, I’m pretty settled and happy here in New Zealand,” Segner, who was also a Germany U16 representative, said as he didn’t rule out the idea of also playing international rugby for his homeland under World Rugby’s new eligibility laws.
“First and foremost is obviously the Blues, and then hopefully that pathway takes me through to the black jersey, but we’ll see how rugby develops over in Germany.
“Hopefully, with what I’m doing over here, can help further the game back home as well. We’ll see where things take me, but, at the moment, my focus is on the Blues and, from there, the All Blacks.”
Before he can consider playing international rugby for the All Blacks or Germany, Segner must first navigate his way through Super Rugby Pacific after being signed by Blues head coach Leon MacDonald following two seasons in the NPC with Tasman.
During that time, Segner won a national title in 2020 and was part of the Mako side that finished as runners-up in 2021, with his impressive performances at provincial level clearly enough to earn him his first, and inevitable, Super Rugby Pacific contract.
Most would have anticipated his first gig at that level would have come with the Crusaders, though, especially given he had spent the last two pre-seasons training with the Christchurch-based franchise.
Instead, it is the Blues that have lucked out on signing Segner, who has already noticed some key differences in training methods between the rival clubs.
“Not sure if it’s just in pre-season, but the trainings are really intense up here, but I love that,” he said.
“Down at the Crusaders, we wouldn’t really do much body-on-body contact, whereas, here, you’re into it straight away, twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but really enjoying that and really enjoying getting as close to a game scenario as possible.”
Segner’s presence at the Blues gives the Aucklanders extra depth and quality throughout their loose forward stocks, which already features All Blacks trio Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu, as well as occasional captain Tom Robinson.
Being in such star-studded company excites Segner as he looks to develop his qualities as a mobile loose forward who poses a serious threat for opposition teams defensively and at the breakdown.
“For me, meeting those boys is a massive opportunity to learn off those boys that have played at the highest level,” he said.
“Actually getting to meet those boys for the first time, like the rest of the team, really nice guys and I look forward to working with them in the future.”
Time will tell how much game time Segner will receive in his debut Blues season as he competes for starting roles with the likes of Ioane, Papalii, Sotutu and Robinson, but he has certainly caught the eye of MacDonald in his first few weeks in Auckland.
“He’s been great. He’s a great athlete and a really good pro and it feels like he’s been here forever. He’s got good mates in the team already and seems to be enjoying himself. He’s made a good fist of it so far,” the Blues boss said.
Those comments bode well for Segner’s chances of selection when the Blues kick their 2022 campaign off against cross-town rivals Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium on February 18.
Regardless of whether or not he plays in that fixture, Segner is optimistic about what the upcoming season entails as he opens the next chapter in his meteoric rise through New Zealand rugby.
“It’s been awesome coming up here. Obviously a bit nervous, it’s a bigger city than Nelson, but I’m loving It with all the boys and the staff, as well, are all really welcoming, so feeling a strong sense of belonging to the Blues. It’s awesome,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say overwhelming, but definitely exciting because, as you say, it is a lot of big changes, going into a new city, going into a completely new team, but when the opportunity arose, I took it with open arms.
“All the challenges that lie ahead of me, I’m looking forward to them and see them all as opportunities, really.”
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