1 Nov 2018

Rugby: The rise of Dalton Papalii

7:05 pm on 1 November 2018

At 21, Dalton Papalii is already carving out a name for himself in New Zealand rugby.

Dalton Papali'i.

Dalton Papali'i. Photo: Photosport

Today, he was named to play openside flanker for the All Blacks in their test against Japan on Saturday - one of two new players, along with Wellington captain Matt Proctor, to start the test and with a further six making their debut off the bench.

He was also the only uncapped player named by coach Steve Hansen among the 32 players for the All Blacks' northern tour; a further 19 players are part of an expanded team to take on Japan.

So who is Dalton Papalii?

- He played rugby league as a youngster before taking up rugby, and his favourite non-rugby team is the Canterbury Bulldogs. He also named Gorden "Raging Bull" Tallis as one of his heroes. Tallis was a Queensland State of Origin and Australian international league player in the 1990s and 2000s, considered at the time as being the best second-row forward in the game of league.

- Raised in Auckland, he played for the St Kentigerns 1st XV, captaining it to the Auckland 1A title in 2015 (beating Auckland Grammar in the final).

- He was selected for the New Zealand Schools side and ended up leading it to a convincing win over their Australian counterparts in 2015, 32-3. He scored a key try to break open the match in the 31st minute when number 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u made an impressive break, before he passed inside to Papalii who was perfectly placed to crash over for the try.

- Papalii was a member of the national under-20 side which powered their way to the world title last year in Georgia.

- His All Black profile lists his favourite player as fellow flanker Michael Hooper, the Wallaby star. "Relentless effort off the ball and just a deadly player on attack and defence with the desire to win in every aspect of play in rugby and off."

- He lists his favourite rugby grounds as Eden Park or the Saint Kentigern College 1st XV pitch and his best memory as "winning three 1A rugby championships and being able to captain one."

- It also says that if not playing rugby he would be "a mechanic or an arborist".

- He was selected for the Blues this year but then broke his hand in a pre-season match and was out for six weeks. He has had an impressive season often in the No. 7 jersey for the Mitre 10 Cup-winning Auckland side.

- An analysis of his play by Rugby Pass showed he made 169 tackles for Auckland all season - averaging 19 per game - and missed just six. It says he did not miss a tackle until Auckland's sixth match.

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