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Friday 27 August 2010 | Published in Regional

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If the attitude of Cook Islander and Tasman Makos rugby hooker Francis Smith mirrors that of his team-mates, self belief wouldn’t have beeen lacking when they faced the ITM Cup table-topping Ranfurly Shield holders Southland at Lansdowne Park last night.

Smith, a loan player from Canterbury and a former Northland and Auckland rep, is proud to be playing for the Makos this year and was far from daunted about taking on a team that thrashed them at Invercargill last year 41-0.

“If I went out thinking we were going to lose, I wouldn’t play,” Smith said.

“Playing for this region has made me see what people expect and what it means.

“Real proud and it’s rubbed off from the regular players (from last season). Real pride.”

Rubbing shoulders with former All Blacks lock Chris Jack and prop Ben Franks, a member of the current All Blacks squad, had been an inspiration, he said.

“Frankie has inspired me. All the stories. He came here and Tasman was the only team that wanted him and he’s an All Black. The coaches Kieran (Keane) and Leon (MacDonald), they are awesome. Real straight up. Good with the players”.

Born in Rarotonga, Smith moved to Auckland as a 15-year-old, boarding at King’s College, where he played for the first XV as flanker.

He changed to hooker only three years ago, playing for New Zealand Universities in Japan and Northland.

In one match against North Harbour he scored three tries.

He also played seven matches for Auckland, but didn’t feature last season.

He joined the Sumner club on an invitation from former All Black Scott Robertson.

He said he was grateful Keane and MacDonald had wanted him and he has loved every minute of it so far.

Rugby hasn’t been Smith’s only activity since moving to Tasman. He is a regular hunter although he admits his aim is not that flash yet.