Au­mua makes case for ap­pren­tice role

The Hutt News - - CLASSIFIED - MARC HIN­TON

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.’’

GETTY IMAGES

Asafo Au­mua, the tack­ler, shapes as a can­di­date for the All Blacks.

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