All Blacks head coach Steven Hansen is not averse to handing first caps to players in the most competitive environments. Following the first test victory over the British and Irish Lions, Hansen is ready to thrust Ngani Laumape into the action of the second test on Saturday.
Named on the bench in the All Blacks twenty-three, Laumape is the next in line in a long succession of recent debutants. Reiko Ioane and Jordie Barrett have both started what looks to be long and successful careers with the reigning world champions.
Union To League
But Laumape’s unorthodox route into the All Blacks environment is perhaps what makes it even more unique.
Laumape started his rugby journey at Palmerston North Boys School with notable alumni that includes Aaron Cruden and Jason Eaton.
During his school years, Laumape toured Britain and Thailand in the school first XV. His school success led him to being named as starter for New Zealand Secondary Schools team in 2011.
But despite his success at school, his route into rugby union took a slight detour. Laumape signed with rugby league side the Warriors after leaving school.
He enjoyed a successful first season scoring sixteen tries in the NRL junior competition. This led the Warriors to draft Laumape into the senior team and by 2014, he became an established regular.
Success in the 13-man code for the Warriors was rewarded when the New Zealander was selected for the Kiwis’ Four Nations training squad. However, Laumape was unlucky to miss out on the final 24-man squad.
Hurricanes To All Black
Despite starting the journey towards a successful rugby career, the league-convert was dealt a season ending blow in 2015. Sidelined for a resulting knee injury, Laumape started to question his decisions in rugby league. The 24-year old therefore looked for a route back into union.
Fortunately for the North Islander, Chris Boyd’s Hurricanes needed no second invitation. Following the injury set back, Laumape made his debut for the Hurricanes in the opening round of the 2016 season.
An impressive return to union saw the inside centre make eleven appearances for the Wellington-based franchise. A first season that helped the Hurricanes to an inaugural Super Rugby title.
Also known as the Mini Bus, Laumape has gone from strength to strength. He has taken the 2017 season by storm, cementing a deadly centre partnership with Vince Aso. The centre duo lead the try scoring with twenty-eight tries between them in Super Rugby this year.
Now a Hurricanes regular, Laumape has consistently topped the stats with line breaks and defenders beaten. An All Black call up is just reward for the season he has had to date.
Ngani Laumape: All Black #1160
As the Lions saw against the Hurricanes, Laumape is a dangerous player. His try was just a snippet of the destruction he has caused defences this season in Super Rugby.
Providing Hansen brings on Laumape during the second test, the 24-year old will become All Black #1160. Despite the strength at Hansen’s disposal, Laumape has been dubbed the new Ma’a Nonu. Like Nonu, Laumape has the potential to have just as successful a career and become an All Black great.
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