SPOTLIGHT: Five great All Blacks bolters
allblacks.com 15 May 2018 Getty Images
No one was more shocked than Ben Smith when he received a call up to the All Blacks for the 2009 end of season tour to Japan and Europe. After a solid Investec Super Rugby season on the wing for the Highlanders, Ben Smith impressed at fullback for Otago in the domestic competition before joining Zac Guilford, Tamati Ellison and Mike Delany as debutants in the squad. At the time, Smith said he had no idea that he would be selected for the team: "I thought I was going all right but I never thought I was going to get a callup for the All Blacks."
The surprise selection in the All Blacks 1990 France touring squad was 19-year-old Wellington pivot Simon Mannix. The youngster was just a year out St Pats Silverstream when selected as an understudy to Grant Fox on the 1990 tour. After eight All Blacks matches spread across tours to France and Argentina in 1990 and 1991, Mannix made his All Blacks Test debut at 22-years-old against France in 1994 – a game also marked by the debut of Jonah Lomu. The rise of Andrew Mehrtens at first-five meant that Mannix didn’t receive another opportunity in black before enjoying a successful career in English domestic rugby.
Blockbusting Wellington Lions hooker Asafo Aumua hadn’t even played Super Rugby when he received a call-up to the All Blacks for the 2017 Northern tour. Aged just 20 at the time, Aumua had a stunning 2017 season for both the New Zealand Under 20s and Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup to put himself firmly on the selection radar. After making a name for himself with a hat-trick in the U20 World Championships final, Aumua continued his form with seven tries in the Mitre 10 Cup to press his case for selection. Aumua played two games on the Northern tour but has unfortunately suffered an injury in Super Rugby and will be unavailable for selection in the first All Blacks squad of 2018.
After playing as a centre and fullback as a teenager, Jerome Kaino switched to the loose forwards and made a huge impact. In 2004, Kaino burst onto the scene with impressive Investec Super Rugby and provincial debuts before starring for New Zealand at the Under 21 World Championship. His rapid elevation was complete with an All Blacks debut against the Barbarians at Twickenham at just 21-years-old. It took Kaino another two years before making his Test debut and going onto become one of the finest loose forwards of the modern era.
At 19 years and 45 days old, Jonah Lomu was just a year out of high school when he became the youngest ever All Black in 1994. Although Lomu had starred at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens, no one predicted his quick elevation into Laurie Mains’ All Blacks squad – particularly given he had only just made the switch from No. 8 to wing. His first Test was a heavy loss to France in Christchurch. The following year, Lomu announced himself as a global superstar during the 1995 Rugby World Cup and went on to score 37 tries across 63 Test matches.
Tune into the All Blacks social media channels at 9.30am this Sunday May 20 to find out who is named in the All Blacks 33-man squad to take on France.