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IN JUNE 2017 Auckland and Blues loose forward Dalton Papalii was revelling in a second World Under 20 Championship with New Zealand, as a winner in Georgia, but not daring to believe where his career may lead.
Opportunity came knocking in 2018 as the Blues were hit by a severe injury crisis and Papalii was signed up. His season was cut short before it started though when he broke his hand in a pre-season match and was out for six weeks.
The versatile loose forward had an outstanding season for Auckland in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup competition topping the tackles count late in the season and earning selection on the All Blacks Vista Northern Tour, starting against Japan before adding impact off the bench against Italy.
Papalii added to his two caps with an appearance against South Africa in 2019 before earning selection in the first All Blacks squad of 2020. He was selected again for the Steinlager Series in 2021 and scored his first Test try against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium.
Auckland-raised Papalii played rugby league as youngster before going onto captain his St Kentigern's College First XV and in 2015 led the New Zealand Schools side to a convincing 32-3 win over the Australian Schools team.
Papalii now plies his trade for Counties Manukau in the Bunnings NPC.
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