Hard work reaps rewards for Aumua

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The combative and precociously-talented teenager first made his mark in the New Zealand Under-20 side that won the 2017 world title preceding his selection for the end of year tour in an apprenticeship-type role.

 

But injuries and coping with that early burst of All Blacks status saw him slip out of the selection frame until his recall by new coach Ian Foster on Sunday.

 

Aumua said his return was the result of hard work and a changed attitude.

 

Fatherhood had been a big part of that as he realised the demands of being a parent and providing for his family. No one had sat him down and outlined what he needed to do, it had been a personal realisation.

 

"When my son arrived, I just had to pull my head in, basically, and go hard for my family," he said.

 

Part of it was a case of understanding that he wouldn't always have the chance that rugby provided, it wasn't going to be around forever, and he had to make the most of his opportunity.

 

It was a situation that required attention both on-the-field where he put in the extra work regarding his tools of the trade but off-the-field where issues like diet and drinking were addressed.

That meant nailing his role as a hooker and his attention to the set-piece work at scrums and lineouts - something he had focused on more in 2020 than in previous years.

 

The dietary change was needed as he described the reputation he developed for his capacity to eat 16 pies in a sitting while at school at St Pat's Silverstream. He said he couldn't understand how he did it because he was a much skinnier person then.

 

Aumua said he missed the call from manager Darren Shand advising him that he had regained his place in the squad. But after calling him back to get the news, he said his immediate feeling was one of the pressures of having to perform now that he was back.

 

And he had the incentive of wanting to make his inclusion a more permanent thing.

 

Aumua said being able to play Mitre 10 Cup with many All Blacks involved was good. Wellington's first game is against Waikato on Saturday afternoon.

 

"I'm happy to get out with a lot of the other boys who haven't been able to play many games for their province recently. They have a few [All Blacks] in their team, a few more than us so I'm looking forward to the battle," he said.

 

Getting the mix right was important for the side, as those who were involved in Super Rugby Aotearoa were used to a greater intensity of play than those who were stepping up from club rugby into the Mitre 10 Cup.

 

It would be up to the more experienced players to help speed up the learning process for the younger players, he said.

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