The midfield back helped New Zealand win the Oceania Under 20 Championship on the Sunshine Coast. New Zealand beating Fiji (74-5), Argentina (32-9) and Australia (69-12) to gain tournament honours for a fifth time.
Rova scored a try against his countrymen in their opening match, an occasion he described as “special.”
“There are about 200 people in my village. It’s a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone. Dad got coverage of the game to Vusaratu which meant everyone could watch it. That was pretty cool.”
He faced his cousins Luke and Waisea Tudulu in the match.
New Zealand opposed a massive pack, and horrendous storm, in their win against Argentina. Breaking down Los Pumitas, Rova explained, was an exercise in patience.
“Argentina put a lot of pressure on us, but we put ourselves under pressure with mistakes. The boys were a bit sad when the weather was so bad but we still backed ourselves to play.”
On a dry track against Australia everything came to fusion. New Zealand scored a record victory against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
“We knew if we could get quick ball, and play fast, that was our strength. We got momentum early and carried on. It felt like we clicked and that felt really good.”
A Rova charge down helped create New Zealand’s fourth try to first five-eigth Lucas Cashmore.
“I just put my hands out wanting the rebound. I looked up and I had the ball with Lucas shouting beside me.”
Jone was eight years' old when he first arrived in New Zealand, following his father who settled as a school teacher in Taumarunui. The Rova family relocated to New Plymouth where Jone attended New Plymouth Boys’ High School. He was in the First XV between 2018 and 2020.
“I enjoyed it there. There were good coaches, a good support group, and the chance to play with your best mates which was awesome.
“There were lots of good games. I remember we beat St Pats Silverstream in Wellington 32-31. Riley Higgins [New Zealand Under 20 teammate] missed the conversion to win the game.”
In 2020, Rova was named New Plymouth Boys’ High School Sportsman of the Year and was selected in the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ team. Headmaster and former Manawatū prop Sam Moore described Rova as “a special kid.”
Canterbury and Lincoln University Rugby Club have become specialists at winning, attracting Rova to the South Island for study and footy.
Lincoln have won the Christchurch Metro Hawkins Cup a handful of times since 2015 and remarkably contributed five players to the New Zealand Under 20 roster. Captain George Bell and forwards Joe Brial, Seb Calder and Jamie Hannah joined Rova on the Australian tour. All Blacks Jordie Barrett, Jack Goodhue and Brent Cameron are among the All Blacks who count Lincoln as their club.
“It’s [Lincoln Rams] a competitive environment where the boys work hard but are of similar ages and have a bit of fun and a great culture,” Rova answered.
Lincoln are in the semifinals of the Hawkins Cup this year. The team is coached by Simon Livingston, Jason Pawson, alongside analyst Nick Redwood.
“We’ve got good coaches with great knowledge. We don’t know what Nick is doing most of the time. He’s on the computer, but the boys like Nick,” Rova laughed.