Halai catches up with Kirwan legend

Getty Images     06 Feb 2013     Getty Images

Halai, a Sevens try-scoring powerhouse, has been likened to Tongan countryman Jonah Lomu and also to Kirwan among the big wings who made such powerful impacts during their playing careers.

However, Halai admitted that when he was growing up in Tonga his favourite team was Australia and he wasn't even aware of Kirwan or his reputation.

When his family moved to New Zealand, and when he attended Wesley College, he learned more of rugby traditions in his new homeland but it wasn't until a week or two back that he finally caught up with some of his coach's scoring highlights.

And the reaction?

"He was pretty good, pretty fast. It's just a matter of learning from him on attack and a few things on skills too," he said.

Not only does he have Kirwan on hand, he has former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry who is the side's defence coach.

"It's pretty much new learning skills for me but for me it's a case of writing it down and learning it and getting the system right," he said.

Already, having joined the Blues from the Counties Manukau and Waikato Unions, he is still a relative novice at first-class level, but from his exposure in Sevens he is high among those players ranked by Kirwan as being exciting among this year's squad.

He has been quick to settle into the team environment associated with Investec Super Rugby and made a sound start in the Blues first game of the year, against Queensland at the weekend.

"We've been hammered at pre-season training and it was good to have a game last weekend," he said.

As one who had been through the harsh Sevens training regime under Gordon Tietjens, Halai found the intensity of pre-season training had been similar this year.

Having broken his finger halfway through the ITM Cup season with Counties Manukau he had not done a lot of training so the pressure had been on to get back to fitness.

"It required surgery but it is all good now. It is hard [when injuries happen] but that is rugby – you never know when you are going to get injured," he said.

Halai said he had put Sevens rugby behind him and was concentrating on 15s for now.

"I want to get as much game time as I can [with the Blues] by pushing for that starting spot," he said.

Halai isn't getting carried away with his prospects, it is all about doing his thing for the Blues to start with.