All Black Ma'a Nonu helps young Aussie midfielder earn Wallabies recall
Paia’aua was a surprise when Australia’s squad was announced on Sunday for upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship matches.
The 26-year-old has only featured for the Wallabies once before – against the Barbarians in 2017.
He played for the Reds for five seasons before moving to French club Toulon in 2019.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie used the Giteau Law tweak – which allows him to pick two overseas players without the mandated 60 Wallabies caps – to include Paia’aua in the squad.
Paia’aua believes he has grown as a player in his time at Toulon, with the help of bustling centre Nonu proving crucial.
“Being a centre, Ma’a Nonu has been a massive influence on me the last year that he’s been there,” Paia’aua said of the 103-Test All Blacks star.
“He’s one of the best 12s to ever play the game. I try to copy him, what he does during the week.
“He’s been really good to me.
“Every time we’re on the field he pulls me aside and helps me with my skills and kicking game.
“He’s one of the most influential players that I’ve come across.”
Paia’aua still has one more year to run on his Toulon deal and says Rennie has been in his ear for some months now trying to convince him to return to Super Rugby.
“He’s told me a couple of times while I was over in France,” Paia’aua said.
“But I’ve still got another year left on my contract in Toulon, so I haven’t discussed anything about my future yet. If it happens, it happens.
“I’ve been in (the Wallabies) camp now, I can see what the set up is like up close and personally.
“I’ll see how I go, and I’ll make a decision from there.”
Paia’aua said he was stunned when told of his Wallabies selection.
“I was actually ready to leave back to France to go to Toulon on Saturday,” he said.
“But Rennie rang me on Thursday asking if I could stay behind for this camp.
“It was a shock to me.
“I jumped at the chance, and I want to take that opportunity and hopefully go well.”
As for his memories of his one and only appearance for the Wallabies?
“I thought I played well in that game against the Barbarians, but I didn’t end up getting anything from the old coaches. But overall I enjoyed my experience,” he said.
The Wallabies will fly to NZ on Friday before the Bledisloe series opener against the All Blacks in Auckland on August 7.
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