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.