Rugby: Why Frank Halai Could Be a Great All Black in the Future
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The sevens is always an exciting event, with colourful costumes, exciting rugby and far more parity than in other international rugby competitions.
But the sevens isn't just a rugby party. It's also a place where young up-and-coming rugby stars can make themselves known on an international stage.
Players like Jonah Lomu, David Campese, Bryan Habana and Israel Dagg originally impressed in the seven a side game before breaking into world-class fifteens rugby.
Five years ago, there was a news report of a "rugby prodigy" from Wesley College, who reminded people of Jonah Lomu. That prodigy was Frank Halai.
Other players with similar Lomu comparisons have had mixed success. Victor Vito made a name for himself by running over his sevens opposition, and eventually made the All Blacks World Cup winning squad, albeit as a flanker and not a winger.
On the other hand, Julian Savea's blockbusting U20 career also led many to think he would be the next big winger of New Zealand rugby, but his ball skills and average performances for the Hurricanes have held him back thus far.
Sonny Bill Williams was also compared to Lomu due to his stature, though he only had limited time on the wing and is on his way back to league.
However these Lomu comparisons are unfair, because while he was a legend, he was a once-in-a-lifetime player. He also played in a different era when backs were not as big, and since then, it's not rare to find backs over 95kg.
Unless Halai can gain another 10 kg and not lose any speed, he will not be Lomu. But Lomu or not, he can still become a damn good player.
While the 6'5" 105-kg winger has not yet turned out to be the second coming of Jonah Lomu, nevertheless he has been impressive. He currently leads the IRB Sevens series with 24 tries, and that's after missing out some game time due to injury.
Just watch the semi-final or the final of the Wellington Sevens. His heroic try in extra time against England, where he left behind a trail of English players booked them a ticket to the final. He also did his job on defense, helping keep the English away from the chalk.
In the final, he scored two tries against Fiji, managing to outrun some flying Fijians, helping New Zealand win consecutive sevens crowns.
Everyone struggles to make one-on-one tackles on him, either being side-stepped, fended off or run over. Not only that but he is also a great defender, rarely missing tackles.
To top it all off, for a big man he has outstanding breakaway speed. It may be sevens, but in any code of rugby, that kind of physical ability is bound to give you an edge.
The fact that he's on the Sevens team means he won't be playing for the Chiefs this season, but he should still be around for Waikato in this year's ITM Cup.
He is only 23 and if his impressive play continues, it may only be a matter of time till he gets that coveted black jersey. Look out for Halai in the rest of the sevens circuit and in the Waikato side.
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