14 Jun 2017

Sport: Samoa call-up a "dream come true" for Kieron Fonotia

3:35 pm on 14 June 2017

The former Crusaders centre Kieron Fonotia says playing for Samoa against the All Blacks is a "dream come true".

The 29 year old has been named to start in the thirteen jersey on Friday night at Eden Park, in a midfield pairing with former Hurricanes player Alapati Leiua.

Fonotia is eligible to play for the Manu through his grandfather, who was born in Samoa, and says it's something he had always wanted to do.

He spent three years at Super Rugby level with the Crusaders but says the opportunity to play test rugby only eventuated after his switch to the Ospreys club in Wales.

"It was sort of one of those things I had to do when I got overseas, by the way sort of Super Rugby rulings of foreign players (with only a limited number of non-New Zealand eligible players allowed in each franchise) the easiest time for me was when I went overseas," he said.

"So pretty much as soon as I got over there I messaged my manager and asked him to throw my name in the hat to hopefully try to get a selection."

Former Crusaders midfielder Kieron Fonotia has been called up by Manu Samoa.

Kieron Fonotia will start at centre for Manu Samoa against the All Blacks. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Christchurch-born midfielder admitted he was yet to visit Samoa and had been getting a crash course in Samoan culture from his new team-mates.

He also planned to spend some time brushing up on the Siva Tau before kick-off.

"That's one of the boxes I need to start ticking...to learn that so there will be plenty of YouTube watching going on...or dancing in the mirrors to myself I think."

The Manu Samoa squad assembled in Auckland last Wednesday and Fonotia said he already felt at home.

"It's a pretty tight group - a lot of these boys have been here for a while and you can just tell how passionate our team is about playing for their country and the people," he said.

"Just going to training it's physical when there's a bit of contact and that's something i love about the team already.

"You can just tell the passion's there and it's a different feeling to what I've had in other teams: it's a lot more hearty, everything's a lot more hearty - it's hard to put into words."

"Earlier in the week we went and had a parade (in South Auckland) and you just see how much it means to the Samoan community and how passionate they are about it," said Fonotia.

"We just want to put pride in the jersey, not leave anything out there and obviously you never go into a game thinking that you're going to lose so we're going out there, I suppose, to create an upset."

As well as Auckland's strong Samoan population, Fonotia will have plenty of family in the stands at Eden Park to watch his test debut.

"They're all pretty excited. They're all coming to the game, they're all flying from Christchurch, and I know my granddad is super proud and proud of where he comes from," he said.

"You get a lot of messages from people you haven't heard from for a while, coming out of the woodwork, so it's pretty exciting times for the family and myself."

"When you think about Samoan teams and players pretty much your loose forwards sort of come to head and your midfielders as big players as part of the team so just to be thrown in that category with all those guys at the moment it's pretty special."