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Luke Romano relishing challenge from Dominic Bird
February 3, 2014
Luke Romano scored his only Test try against Wales in 2012 © PA Photos
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Luke Romano is not guaranteed a starting position for the Crusaders despite 16 Test appearances and 46 matches for the seven-time Super Rugby champions.

He is but one of three All Blacks locks in this year's crusade, with 51-cap Sam Whitelock easily having senior status and up-and-comer Dominic Bird, a giant at 2.06m, presenting a new challenge. But Romano, 27, welcomes the competition, saying it will bring out the best in all three.

New Zealand's Dominic Bird poses for a portrait after a New Zealand All Blacks media session, ANA International, Tokyo, October 31, 2013
Dominic Bird made his first Test appearance against Japan in Tokyo © Getty Images
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"You might be an All Black and think your starting spot is guaranteed, but that's not the way here," he said. "The coaches pick on performance and, if you're not performing, you're going to be on the bench or in the stand."

Romano missed The Rugby Championship with a groin injury he sustained in the opening match of the tournament against the Wallabies in Sydney in August, returning to the Test arena off the bench in the 30-22 victory over England at Twickenham in November.

Bird also went on the All Blacks' end-of-year tour, making his debut against Japan.

A refreshed Romano is eagerly awaiting the Crusaders' first serious pre-season match, against the Highlanders at Motueka on Friday. He said the Crusaders had relished their revised pre-competition training program under coach Todd Blackadder, with the players concentrating more on rugby skills and developing combinations rather than pumping weights in the gym.

The Crusaders open their Super Rugby campaign against defending champions the Chiefs in Christchurch on February 21.

© AAP

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