Kefu pulls roof tiler from club rugby to start for Tonga against All Blacks

by AFP

Hooker Siua Maile was named Thursday to make his debut for Tonga against the All Blacks this weekend, capping a whirlwind rise that has taken him from fixing roofs to playing against the world champions in less than a month.

The Christchurch-based 22-year-old, who plies his trade as a roofer while playing club rugby for Shirley Vikings, was a surprise inclusion in coach Toutai Kefu's World Cup squad.

Some minor injuries to his more experienced teammates mean Maile has been catapulted into a starting spot on the front row for Tonga's final World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday.

Kefu told Radio New Zealand that until recently he knew little about Maile, who edged out veteran Exeter hooker Elvis Taione for a spot in the squad.

"Three weeks ago he was nailing tin roofs to houses so this is a great opportunity for him," Kefu told the broadcaster.

"I think he's still a bit shell-shocked to tell you the truth, but what a wonderful opportunity."

While Kefu said Maile would gain valuable Test experience against the All Blacks, he said the player was originally included in the squad as a development prospect.

"He was our third-choice hooker that we were going to take to the World Cup and we didn't envisage him taking any part in the World Cup," he said.

"So we brought him along basically for experience and because we identified that he's got a massive potential and may be a player of the future."

Tonga vs All Blacks (15-1)

David Halaifonua; Cooper Vuna, Mali Hingano, Siale Piutau (capt), Viliami Lolohea; Kurt Morath, Tane Takulua; Ma'ama Vaipulu, Fotu Lokotui, Sione Kalamafoni; Leva Fifita, Sam Lousi; Siua Halanukonuka, Siua Maile, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi

Replacements: Sione Anga'aelangi, Vunipola Fifita, Ma'afu Fia, Dan Faleafa, Zane Kapeli, Leon Fukofuka, James Faiva, Afa Pakalani