Spe­cial ta­lent set for de­but

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - Michael Burgess

The stun­ning rise of Isa­iah Pa­pali’i this year has con­tin­ued, with con­fir­ma­tion he will make his Ki­wis de­but in the third test against Eng­land to­mor­row (4.15am NZT).

Pa­pali’i has al­ways been seen as a spe­cial ta­lent, ever since he made his NRL de­but barely out of school, and his as­cen­sion was only a mat­ter of time.

But the man­ner of his el­e­va­tion will raise some eye­brows, as ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­change for­ward Marty Tau­pau has been axed at his ex­pense.

Tau­pau has been a reg­u­lar since his test de­but in May 2014, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 24 tests, and is usu­ally one of the first picked.

In other changes, Joseph Tap­ine re­turns to the bench af­ter mak­ing a brief cameo in the first test in Hull, while Pen­rith young­ster James Fisher-Har­ris, part of the start­ing lineup the past two weeks, has been de­moted to the ex­tended bench.

Ja­mayne Isaako re­places Can­berra winger Jor­dan Ra­pana, who has re­turned to Aus­tralia af­ter be­ing ruled out of the tour with a shoul­der in­jury.

Isaako, named Dally M NRL Rookie of the Year, will make his sec­ond test ap­pear­ance af­ter his de­but against Eng­land in Den­ver.

Isaako missed the first test in Eng­land for the birth of his first child. He re­joined the Ki­wis last week and will add much-needed pace to their back­line.

The se­lec­tion for the third test was un­usual. Ini­tially, the NZRL con­firmed a 20-man ex­tended squad — with­out nom­i­nat­ing any po­si­tions — but a few hours later, Maguire had set­tled on his 17, with Ger­ard Beale, Fisher-Har­ris and Jahrome Hughes miss­ing out, while Tau­pau was omit­ted to­gether.

Pa­pali’i (20) cap­tained the Ju­nior Ki­wis last month.

“The fu­ture of where you are go­ing is strong when you have young play­ers like that com­ing in,” said Maguire. “Young Isa­iah, he’s been per­fect on tour. He’s done all the train­ing, he’s a very dili­gent young man. So I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing him have one of many games mov­ing for­ward but ob­vi­ously he un­der­stands it’s a big day and he is af­ter a big per­for­mance.”

He was a shock se­lec­tion for Stephen Kear­ney’s first War­riors game in 2017. Af­ter that match against New­cas­tle, he wasn’t sighted again un­til the end of last sea­son, where he made a fur­ther four ap­pear­ances.

But af­ter a strong pre-sea­son un­der new trainer Alex Corvo, he didn’t look back this year. He was vir­tu­ally ev­er­p­re­sent from the end of April and his form was so strong, he forced Si­mon Man­ner­ing into a bench role.

His de­fen­sive work­load was out­stand­ing as was his at­tack­ing and abil­ity to find space and off­loads where none seemed pos­si­ble.

Pa­pali’i made his name in 1st XV rugby, and was named the best school­boy player in the coun­try in 2016 af­ter lead­ing Mt Al­bert Gram­mar to the na­tional ti­tle. But he was al­ways go­ing to fo­cus on league, and thank­fully for the Ki­wis, he has.

Al­ready there are com­par­isons with Man­ner­ing and Stephen Kear­ney, in terms of his pre­co­cious­ness, ca­pac­ity for train­ing and at­ti­tude to­wards prepa­ra­tion. He’s ma­ture be­yond his years, and will need to be against a con­fi­dent Eng­land team, look­ing to put the seal on a per­fect se­ries in front of an ex­pected 35,000 crowd in Leeds.

“[We have] a stronger un­der­stand­ing of what we need to do on the field,” said Maguire. “We are well aware of what Eng­land are throw­ing at us now and it’s about do­ing that on ev­ery sin­gle play.

‘‘The con­cen­tra­tion around that has been a big part of this train­ing week and the boys are fo­cused on a strong per­for­mance.”

Photo / Photosport

Isa­iah Pa­pali’i will grad­u­ate from the Ju­nior Ki­wis to de­but for the Ki­wis.

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