Student to brave Lion’s lair
On June 2, Marcel Renata will have his head buried in university books. The next day, it’ll be in a rugby scrum against the British and Irish Lions.
The 23-year-old AUT business student and Auckland Rugby player was handed the opportunity of a lifetime when he was selected for the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians team to play the Lions on their first game of the 2017 tour.
It will be a surreal experience for a young prop who only decided to focus on rugby three years ago.
‘‘It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,’’ Renata said.
‘‘Some of the best players in the world don’t even get the chance to play them so I’m very lucky to get a shot.’’
Renata plays his club rugby for University, and is just a handful of papers away from finishing his bachelor of business. He said playing against the Lions wasn’t even on his radar, and it took a while for the news to sink in.
‘‘I got a text and I just thought, ‘that’s pretty cool’,’’ he said.
‘‘My old man goes, ’ what do you mean pretty cool? It’s the Lions’.
‘‘I didn’t really realise until I thought about it. I mean, the whole world is going to be watching, we’re playing against a super team from the northern hemisphere with some of the best players in the world.’’
However, this isn’t the first time Renata has been surprised with representative selection. After graduating from Kings College in 2011, he picked up a contract with the Auckland Rugby Academy which shed light on a different pathway.
‘‘At the time I was just playing rugby because my mates played and I just enjoyed the whole camaraderie around it,’’ he said.
‘‘When I slipped into the academy, that’s when I started thinking I could make something out of it.’’
In 2015, he made Auckland’s Mitre 10 Cup side and last year made six starts in the number three jersey. When news came out last year that a prop from the Maori All Blacks went down with injury, someone alerted Renata that he could be on the selectors radar.
‘‘We played Waitemata that week, and the next week I was kitting up for the Maori All Blacks against the Barbarians at Eden Park.’’
Marcel Renata, 23, will play the British and Irish Lions in June after making the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians side.