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Crew . . . Heartland XV representatives (from left) Ralph Darling, Phillipa Masoe (team physio), Josh Clark and Meli Kolinisau. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

When Meli Kolinisau is slightly nervous about the size of the opposition, you know there are some big boys running around.

The Valley prop joined Ralph Darling and Josh Clark as North Otago’s representatives in the New Zealand Heartland XV that took on Manu Samoa at Eden Park last Saturday.

The team of players from 10 rural provincial unions was eventually out-gunned 36-19 by a strong Samoan side, but earned plenty of plaudits for a spirited performance.

Kolinisau, who started the game on the bench alongside his front-row partner Darling, admitted to feeling a little nervous watching some of the collisions from the sideline.

“Running into them was like running into a block of concrete, totally a different thing,” he said.

“We looked at the team list before the game and pretty much all their number one players were in the squad.

“I would say it is probably the toughest game I have played, but it was good – I enjoyed it.”

The Heartland team assembled a week before the game, which was all the time it had to work on moves and team tactics.

Playing at Eden Park was a different experience for Kolinisau, but he said he was looking forward to getting back into the North Otago squad after watching his team-mates play in Dunedin from his Auckland hotel room last week.

“The boys played really good – me and Ralph were saying it looks like we are on the bench now.”