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Get-To-Know: The Six New All Blacks selected in 2022!

Written by Max Sharp.

After some deeply spiritual reflection, a wonderful Samoan traditional performance and prayers to our Lord almighty, the All Blacks' Squad for 2022, was named by NZRU Board Member, Bailey Mackey.

Ian Foster's 36-man All Blacks squad included a few surprises, from re-calls, to some of the six new caps. Aidan Ross (loosehead prop), Pita Gus Sowakula (loose forward), Folau Fakatava (halfback), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (midfield), Leicester Fainga'anuku (wing) and Stephen Perofeta (utility back) have all been selected for the All Blacks, for the first time.

The All Blacks squad for 2022. Photos: Getty Images.

Some of these picks caused extreme controversy, others were widely applauded, while others perhaps made people more forgiving of Ian Foster after the 2021 season. In this article, we'll get to know the fun facts about each of these new players!

Folau Fakatava

Clubs: Hawke's Bay, Highlanders

Born: Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Age: 22 years old

Height: 1.77m

Weight: 80kg

Career Start: 2018

High School: Hastings Boys' High School

Born in Tonga, Fakatava moved to New Zealand aged 16 and was part of an All-Star 1st XV, including Danny Toala (Samoa), Devan Flanders, Kianu Kereru-Symes (both Hurricanes) and Lincoln McClutchie (Moana Pasifika). Hawke's Bay signed Fakatava straight out of school; he made the New Zealand Schools Barbarians in 2016.

Though he was on my radar, having played rugby in the same town as me, most saw Fakatava burst onto the scene in 2020, when he won the Duane Monkley Medal after a standout NPC season. Having debuted for the Highlanders in 2019, Fakatava became a regular starter in 2021 before tearing his ACL against the Crusaders.

Fakatava has returned in 2022 at an even better level of passing and running, though World Rugby's amendment to eligiblity laws did force the NZRU to seek exemption to pick Fakatava; as he had been injured in 2021.

The number 9 could easily become one of the greatest-ever halfbacks.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Clubs: Auckland, Blues

Born: Apia, Samoa

Age: 29 years old

Height: 1.82m

Weight: 96kg

Career Start: 2021

High School: Otahuhu College

The Otahuhu College alumni played both rugby union and rugby league growing up and though he represented Auckland and the Blues at an age-grade level, he went on to have a 9-year career in league, which included 20 games for the Kiwis.

From the fullback position, Tuivasa-Sheck became the Warriors' captain aged 23, going on to play 111 games for them, prior to converting codes. Tuivasa-Sheck was to initially return to union on the wing for Auckland, though this never eventuated due to repeated lockdowns.

Selected as a second-five by Leon MacDonald for the Blues in 2022, Tuivasa-Sheck has proven to be one of the league's most accurate tacklers in a backline. Though he has yet to debut for Auckland, Ian Foster has taken a huge gamble and selected the 29-year-old for the All Blacks.

Tuivasa-Sheck's selection will serve as fuel for the Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final.

Aidan Ross

Clubs: Bay of Plenty, Chiefs

Born: Gosford, Sydney, Australia

Age: 26 years old

Height: 1.89m

Weight: 111kg

Career Start: 2015

High School: Tauranga Boys' College

Ross runs out to warm up before a match, 2022. Photo: Max Sharp.

The Chiefs' number 1 has won the wrestle between himself and his teammate Ollie Norris for an All Blacks call-up, having stood up as a scrummager and defender in recent weeks, including a Man of the Match display, against the Force.

Ross' Bay of Plenty debut was in 2015, the same year in which he represented the New Zealand U20's team. He went on to make his debut for the Chiefs in 2017 and became a regular starter the following year; though a horrific leg injury saw Ross' season end prematurely.

In the 2020's, he has returned to form and was called in to train with the All Blacks in 2021; due to an injury to Joe Moody. Ross has been selected in 2022, over Ethan de Groot and Alex Hodgman, so will look to rise to the challenge against Ireland's Andrew Porter and Tadgh Furlong.

Ross was previously in a relationship with Michaela Blyde, of the Black Ferns' 7s team.

Leicester Fainga'anuku

Clubs: Tasman, Crusaders

Born: Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Age: 22 years old

Height: 1.88m

Weight: 109kg

Career Start: 2018

High School: Nelson College

Marked as a prodigy from a young age, Fainga'anuku signed for Tasman straight out of school and played for the New Zealand Schools (2017) and U20's (2018, 2019). His call up comes just weeks after his older brother Tima, has been selected for Tonga's national side.

Fainga'anuku's career with Tasman and the Crusaders have been very successful; he has won two NPC titles, 3 Super Rugby titles and was the top try-scorer of the 2021 NPC, with 8 individual tries.

In 2022, he supplanted George Bridge as the Crusaders' first-choice left wing. Fainga'anuku has now supplanted Bridge in the All Blacks and his massive, but quick body, will be well-deployed on both the wing and midfield by the All Blacks.

I once marked Fainga'anuku as the next Julian Savea, this looks set to eventuate.

Stephen Perofeta

Clubs: Taranaki, Blues

Born: Whanganui, New Zealand

Age: 25 years old

Height: 1.81m

Weight: 85kg

Career Start: 2015

High School: Whanganui Collegiate School

Whanganui born-and-raised, Perofeta played in the Heartland Championship for them straight out of school, going on to join Taranaki for the 2016 NPC. Perofeta was the Duane Monkley Medal winner for 2021, having been the competition's leading points-scorer.

Perofeta's second match for the Blues, was when he started against the British and Irish Lions, in 2017. An injury in 2018 saw him miss an All Black call-up; which went to Brett Cameron; also born in Whanganui. Perofeta missed the entire 2019 Super Rugby season.

His 2021 NPC form has been carried into Super Rugby and though Ian Foster has selected Perofeta as a 10; he has been the Blues' first-choice 15 throughout the season, while he is the competition's leading points-scorer. With Damian McKenzie ruled ineligible for selection in 2022; it is a great sight to have Perofeta in the All Blacks.

25 is a great age to debut and Perofeta will do well in this long-awaited chance.

Pita Gus Sowakula

Clubs: Taranaki, Chiefs

Born: Lautoka, Fiji

Age: 27 years old

Height: 1.95m

Weight: 110kg

Career Start: 2017

High School: Central College Lautoka

Pita Gus Sowakula at a Chiefs' captains' run, 2022. Photo: Max Sharp.

Though Marino Mikaele-Tu'u's return from injury and Hoskins Sotutu's brilliant form looked to have shut the door on the 27-year-old's All Black hopes, Foster has selected Sowakula; over his Chiefs teammate, Luke Jacobson. Sowakula definitely hasn't had a traditional rise to the black jersey!

The big number 8 was originally a basketball player for the Otago Nuggets, and for Fiji's national basketball team. However, he returned to rugby in 2016; when joining Taranaki's academy. Sowakula was called into the Chiefs as injury cover in 2018; having made the Taranaki Bulls through playing for Spotswood in 2017.

Sowakula rejected a call-up to the Flying Fijians ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and has since played 50 games for the Chiefs. He was voted as the "Most-Improved Player" by the black jersey's Instagram following.

Sowakula will provide the All Blacks with some hard hits on both attack and defence.

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