Aumua makes case for apprentice role
Wellington hooker sensation Asafo Aumua is firming as a favourite to occupy the All Blacks’ designated apprentice spot for the end-of-year tour.
National coach Steve Hansen has confirmed the talented No 2 is very much on their radar, though he said there was time before the apprentice spot was decided for November’s northern hemisphere visit.
The 20-year-old star of this year’s world championshipwinning New Zealand Colts team has started brilliantly for Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup, scoring three tries in the first three games and showcasing his outstanding all-round skills and athleticism.
His emergence has also created a logjam at hooker in the capital, with Aumua’s signing by the Hurricanes, to join All Black Dane Coles and capable backup Ricky Riccitelli, forcing Leni Apisai to move to the Blues for 2018.
Aumua certainly looks a star in the making. He is listed at 1.77m and 108kg, but possesses extraordinary power in his legs and speed and athleticism that belie his squat frame. He is also somewhat of a try-scoring sensation for a hooker.
‘‘He’s a good player,’’ said Hansen.
‘‘He’s playing very well, especially around the park. But it’s his core roles you really want to see him do well in and he’s doing OK in those too. He’s got a big future.’’
Hansen said he ‘‘could be’’ a candidate for the apprentice role previously occupied by Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea. .
‘‘We’ll see how he goes,’’ added Hansen. ‘‘It might be better for him to just have a good off-season. We’ll make a decision about all of that nearer the time.’’
Aumua’s stock has been on the rise for a couple of years now, with obvious comparisons made to the all-round package of skills that Coles possesses.
Last season, in his first year out of school, he was the Lions’ leading try-scorer with six in 10 games.
Earlier this year he grabbed headlines at the world under-20s championships when he scored a hat-trick in New Zealand’s 64-17 win over England in the final.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd told Stuff earlier this year he had been tracking Aumua’s rise in the game since he was 14.
‘‘Ardie was another one like that, and Ma’a [Nonu]. You could tell when they were 13 or 14 they were going to be special.’’
Asafo Aumua, the tackler, shapes as a candidate for the All Blacks.