Owen Franks says he feels for his former All Black teammates during their struggles after the Irish series defeat, saying he knows what it feels like to face public criticism.
Franks, who played 108 Tests for the All Blacks before playing for Northampton Saints for three seasons, has returned to play for Canterbury in the NPC, as revealed by 1News on Tuesday.
Franks, 34, played five games for the Hurricanes this season and wasn’t expecting to play provincial rugby before returning to Wellington for the 2023 Super season, but Fletcher Newell’s call-up to the All Blacks earned the tighthead prop a recall to the red and blacks.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after being announced in the Canterbury squad, Franks re-iterated his desire to return to the All Blacks.
“It’s important to keep that ambition of being the best you can be," he said.
"I’ve got a lot of experience and I feel like that’s a positive thing in my favour. It’s maybe not realistic, but in terms of what drives me and my mindset and I think for every New Zealand player that should be the goal, 100%.
"One of my heroes is [former All Black] John Afoa, who is still playing at 40 and to an incredibly high standard.
"He’s been voted best Premiership prop year on year in arguably one of the toughest rugby competitions in the world."
Asked about the public’s pressure on the All Blacks, who are in South Africa preparing for two Tests against the world champions, Franks was unequivocal.
"It’s there for everyone to see," he said. "It’s the biggest strength of the All Blacks – the criticism from the public, warranted or unwarranted. But I do feel for those guys. I was involved in 2009 when we lost three times to South Africa and I know what it’s like to walk through the airport and get cheap shots from the public.
"I’ve certainly always had a bit of perspective when things have gone well – they can flip very quickly."
Asked how long he would keep playing, Franks, who is in business with new All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan (selling scrum machines), replied with a laugh.
"As long as my kids are in private schools – as long as my body [can handle it] and I’m enjoying it."