Ruben Love feeling like 'a different athlete' ahead of 2024 season
Ruben Love is a player of huge promise in New Zealand’s rugby scene, having earned Maori All Black and All Blacks XV caps, putting in some game-breaking performances for each before turning 22.
But before Love could build on his remarkable form in 2023’s Super Rugby Pacific, a groin injury he suffered the season prior demanded attention.
The injury had come about during a conversion against Moana Pasifika, and while it was deemed no urgent action was needed, the pain persisted for the young fullback.
It was after the injured Love had played through the entirety of the 2022 NPC season with Wellington – a famously successful title run – and travelled to Ireland with the All Blacks XV – a thumping 47-19 win – that he sought further medical advice from Enda King, Aspetar’s Head of Elite Performance and Development in Doha.
“I played through the NPC with this injury, but I was in so much pain,” he told RugbyPass earlier in the year.
“The groin is connected to the abs, so it basically affects every movement. Small things such as getting in and out of the car, sneezing, and laughing, especially around Xavier Numia, were really difficult.
“I often sat out practice. Too much kicking, sprinting, and stepping would put further strain on it.”
The road to recovery got underway and Love would only play eight minutes of Super Rugby Pacific in 2023, coming on late in the Hurricanes’ quarter-final against the Brumbies, only to see his side fall agonisingly short.
Knowing what the youngster was capable of despite the extended sideline spell, Ian Foster and the All Blacks selectors named Love in the 2023 All Blacks XV squad to tour Japan. Relishing the chance to get back on the field in the black jersey, Love was electric, starting in both wins.
Now fully fit and gathering confidence in his body, Love has ventured across the Tasman for some specialist training with world-renowned sprint coach Roger Fabri.
“I feel like the month I’ve had with the Roger Fabri speed academy, I’m a different athlete and I feel like I’ve brought back a different mindset,” Love said in an Instagram post. “I’m starting to feel like myself again.”
Fabri’s clientele includes some of the finest track, NRL and NFL athletes, meaning the young Hurricanes playmaker joins some elite company as academy alumni.
Love lived with an old foe turned friend he made during his days with the New Zealand U20s, Australia’s stolen NRL star Joseph Sua’ali’i.
“Going to Australia for a month was eye-opening for sure,” Love told 1News.
“I sent (Fabri) a message and email to his academy, I just booked a ticket packed a bag and went over. It was amazing. I learned so much and I’ve come back a different athlete, I truly believe that.”
Love admits he started behind the eight ball in a field of world-class athletes, including NRL speedsters Jason Saab and Bronson Xerri.
“The way I could see my progress at the start was how (close) I could get to last place ? whether I could get closer to the second to last person.
“I was getting smoked by the boys like Jason Saab but I feel like, when you train with people better than you, it’s like anything – you grow quicker.”
Love is now back into Hurricanes preseason training with new head coach Clark Laidlaw, and is ready to don whichever jersey the former All Blacks Sevens coach sees him best suited for – ten or 15.
All signs suggest higher honours are only a matter of time for Love, who would reconnect with former Hurricanes coach Jason Holland and former Lions assistant Tamati Ellison if he were to find favour under Scott Robertson.
“I felt like I’ve missed out on so much. I’m doing my best to get back on the field and give it my all for the Hurricanes, and hopefully put my foot in the door for the All Blacks.”
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