ISAIA TOEAVA

NZ Rugby World - - Rugby Championship -

Isaia Toeava thought he'd be spend­ing the lat­ter part of 2005 in the gym as he pre­pared him­self to crack the New Zealand un­der 21 team the fol­low­ing year and per­haps play a bit more for Auck­land.

The 19-year-old had made two starts for Auck­land dur­ing the NPC – nei­ther par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable. There was no doubt he was a tal­ent, though. He’d en­joyed a good cam­paign with the New Zealand un­der 19 team at the ju­nior world cham­pi­onship that year and he’d been some­thing of a star while at De Le Salle Col­lege in South Auck­land. Ca­pa­ble of play­ing the mid­field and back three, Toeava had the size, speed and skills to think he could crack the pro­fes­sional ranks.

But in the win­ter of 2005, such a prospect was miles from his mind. He had so much to learn, so much to im­prove upon. But that wasn't go­ing to budge the All Black coaches from nam­ing Toeava in their Grand Slam tour party. Toeava, with just two first-class ap­pear­ances, be­came one of the big­gest All Black bolters in mod­ern his­tory.

It was scarcely be­liev­able that a player with so lit­tle se­nior ex­pe­ri­ence could be named in the All Blacks. Even the most ded­i­cated fol­low­ers and rugby jour­nal­ists had no idea who Toeava was when he was named. And not only was he go­ing to spend Novem­ber in the UK, win­ning his first All Blacks cap, he was also go­ing to be play­ing Su­per Rugby in 2006. He was pushed into the Hur­ri­canes at the re­quest of the All Black se­lec­tors. It was a crazy trans­for­ma­tion and, in hind­sight, when he strug­gled to play to his po­ten­tial, the All Blacks se­lec­tors would later ad­mit they had been wrong to ask so much of him so sud­denly.

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