If it hadn't been for the selection of Isaia Toeava in the 2005 All Blacks Grand Slam tour party, Jason Eaton would have ranked as the most astonishing selection.
Like Toeava, he was virtually unknown when he was picked by the All Blacks. He was a 23-yearold 2.04m lock, who the coaches reckoned had the size and athleticism to become a world class performer.
They had made that assessment though on the back of Eaton playing a handful of provincial games – a few more than Toeava, but not many.
Eaton had played for Manawatu in 2002 and 2003 before transferring to Taranaki in 2004. He was winning a bit of game time, but not enough to be winning accolades or public recognition.
He was big, but not necessarily that effective. But when he played for Taranaki against the British & Irish Lions in 2005, the All Blacks coached noticed him, saw something and started asking more questions about him.
They tracked him through August and September and then shocked everyone when they handed him a test debut against Ireland in November.