Brodie Retallick ‘Born again Blacks’: Seven All Blacks’ road to rugby redemption

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Between the Posts looks at why Owen Franks won’t be on the plane to Japan, and finds holes to poke in Steve Hansen’s strong team.

As jilted All Blacks lick their wounds, others have burst through the bat wing doors to celebrate in the Second Chance Saloon.

The 2019 World Cup squad – announced on Wednesday – includes seven men who have trudged the road of redemption to earn air tickets to Japan.

They have survived serious surgeries, concussions and selection snubs to prove patience, persistence and loyalty to be the ultimate sporting virtues.

Rookie wing Sevu Reece even overcame a brush with the law. 

READ MORE:
* Hansen unfazed by lack of ‘grizzly bears’
* George Bridge and Sevu Reece overcome rocky year to achieve Rugby World Cup dream
* Rugby World Cup: Nineteen All Blacks are heading to their first World Cup 
* Rugby World Cup: North in shock at axing of Owen Franks by All Blacks
* Rugby World Cup: Steve Hansen ramps up ‘pressure’ factor on rivals in Japan

The Seven Second Chance All Blacks 

1: ATU MOLI

Brodie Retallick Atu Moli with his All Blacks cap.

Phil Walter

Atu Moli with his All Blacks cap.

The All Blacks’ first Marlborough-reared front row forward since Anton Oliver has booked a Rugby World Cup berth after recovering from a horrific leg injury in 2018.

An innocuous minor blow to his left quad led to a giant haematoma.  Compartment syndrome developed, with Moli’s leg muscle expanding disproportionately.

Moli toldStuffin February 2019 he was told the injury was generally only seen as a result of car accidents and can lead to amputation.

Four operations ensued with doctors cutting the side of his leg open to continually release the pressure on the muscle.

Brodie Retallick Atu Moli has overcome a horrific leg injury to win a place in the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup squad.

Hannah Peters

Atu Moli has overcome a horrific leg injury to win a place in the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup squad.

Moli also needed a skin graft. His recovery was long and laborious, forcing him to miss the Mitre 10 Cup season.

After no footy in 2018, the 24-year-old was keen to make his mark in Super Rugby this year.

Prior to his injury, Moli was handed some homework by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who wanted him to switch from tighthead to loosehead prop.

Moli got more game-time in the No 1 jumper in this season’s Super Rugby competition with the Chiefs well served on the tighthead by All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta’avao.

Moli’s size (1.89m and 127kg) and mobility have earned him the nod for the World Cup squad as a potential impact player off the bench.

2: ANGUS TA’AVAO

Brodie Retallick Angus Ta'avao runs through drills at an All Blacks' captain's run.

HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Angus Ta’avao runs through drills at an All Blacks’ captain’s run.

​Two years ago, tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao’s career was at a crossroads.

The Aucklander had just experienced the second setback of his Super Rugby career. Released in 2015 after 49 games over four seasons for the Blues, he joined the Waratahs in Sydney. But the New South Wales franchise cut him loose after 22 games in two years.

Ta’avao and his partner took their son Leo – born with a genetic disorder – home to be nearer to family.

The personable prop, who has played provincial rugby for Taranaki since 2014,  came back without a contract. But his Taranaki coach, Colin Cooper, threw him a lifeline – a short-term training stint with the Chiefs.

Injuries to All Blacks Nepo Laulala and Atu Moli opened a door for Ta’avao, who burst through it like a Taranaki bull at a gate.

Earlier in his career, the former New Zealand under-20 international had been overlooked for higher national honours due to perceived concerns about his scrummaging strength.

But Ta’avao and Chiefs propping partner Karl Karl Tu’inukuafe earned All Blacks call-ups with Ta’avao making his test debut in the 2018 Rugby Championship.

Brodie Retallick Angus Ta'avao drinks from the Bledisloe Cup.

ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Angus Ta’avao drinks from the Bledisloe Cup.

Now, almost 10 years after his first-class debut (for Auckland), Ta’avao has won a World Cup berth over two-time gold medallist Owen Franks.

At 1.94m and 124kg, Ta’avao fits Steve Hansen’s desire for big, mobile ball-running props.

3: NEPO LAULALA

Brodie Retallick Tighthead prop Nepo Laulala on the charge against the Wallabies.

Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.

Tighthead prop Nepo Laulala on the charge against the Wallabies.

​The Samoan born tighthead first burst into prominence with the Crusaders where he competed for game-time with All Blacks incumbent Owen Franks.

Laulala made his test debut in 2015, replacing Franks against his native Manu Samoa and wen

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