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PLAYER PROFILE #JWC2014: Atunaisa Moli

allblacks.com     18 May 2014    

The Marlborough Boys' College head prefect thought he had been selected just to make up the numbers initially. And in reality his age meant he could have aimed at the 2015 tournament.

But once getting through the daunting physical and mental test that the 'longest day challenge' suggests, he was ready to make the commitment to attempting to win a place in the side.

The former tighthead prop has been moved to the loosehead in the Under-20 structure but was clearly on the selectors' radar. It helped when heading a Marlborough Boys' team that won the Press Cup inter-schools competition in the Crusaders franchise for the first time last year.

And winning selection in the New Zealand Secondary Schools side last year was another boost. It was reflective of a career that had seen him move through all the Marlborough age-grade teams.

That was also great reward for his long-time mentor in Blenheim, Tonga Taumoefolau. While the finishing touches in his game, to this stage of his career, were provided by Marlborough Boys' coaches Greg Cornelius and Marty Vercoe.

He has enjoyed the front row change just as he has relished the chance to prepare for the world championship campaign. Apart from coping with the different elements involved in playing loosehead, he has been working on his fitness and strength, dropping from 127kgs to 116kgs.

Now studying for a sports and leisure degree at Waikato University, he said it was when getting into serious weight training in the university environment that he started to feel the benefits. He's part of the Waikato Rugby Academy, a member of the Waikato Under-19s team and is playing premier rugby for Varsity in the Hamilton competition.

The Gisborne-born Moli moved to Blenheim when eight years old as a result of his father's employment but it proved beneficial for him.

It had been a great relief to be selected and he said while sitting waiting for the team to be named he experienced a lot of emotions. But once his name was read out he rang his father immediately and he said his family were thrilled.

We have already previewed other players selected for the New Zealand Under 20s - meet Josh Renton and Damian McKenzie.