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Hurricanes star Xavier Numia talks journey from midfield to front row

By Adam Julian
Xavier Numia makes a break for the Hurricanes try. Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images

When the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs 36-23 in Wellington on April 13, the Chiefs scrum was reduced to rubble.

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In the 14th minute, the Hurricanes cast an anchor on the Chiefs’ five-meter mark and mercilessly pummelled their rivals for five minutes.

Eventually, Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara snipped and scored, an outcome actually charitable for the visitors. The only alternative was a penalty try accompanied by a yellow card.

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Hurricanes loosehead prop Xavier Numia was one of the Chiefs destroyers.

“We weren’t necessarily planning to do it,” Numia humbly told RugbyPass ahead of the rematch.

“The Chiefs will be a different breed this time round. We must focus on our processes and what we’re good at.”

“Processes,” “connections,” “learnings,” “work ons’,” and “systems,” Numia recycles rugby cliches with the authority and efficiency of someone who has literally grown up in the game.

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A precocious Oriental-Rongotai junior, Numia helped the St Patrick’s College, Wellington First XV win their first Premiership title since 1996 in 2015. He was initially an outside back but moved from midfield to loosehead prop to accommodate for Billy Proctor.

In 2016 he made the New Zealand Schools side that beat Australia in Auckland and won the College Sport Wellington Rugby Player of the Year award. The propping prodigy (despite two knee surgeries) has been entrenched in the rugby system since.

Numia has racked up 60 appearances for the Wellington Lions winning an NPC and Ranfurly Shield title in 2022. He debuted for the Hurricanes in 2019 and has played 58 games, earning selection for the All Blacks XV in 2023.

Numia always could terrorise opponents but concedes consistency has been an area of growth.

“I’ve matured throughout the years, being around the rugby boys and all the stuff that comes with it: sponsors, public speaking, media, diet.

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“Whooper has been a huge help. He’s taught me to stop trying to achieve too much all the time.

“There is a balance between attacking a tighthead and controlling a tighthead. Sometimes I’ve tried to attack too much and left the hooker too much work to do,” Numia said.

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‘Whooper’ is Hurricanes forward coach Jamie Mackintosh. The former All Blacks prop was one of New Zealand’s most redoubtable scrummagers, famously employing a bed in an Edinburgh hotel room as a makeshift scrum machine before his Test debut against Scotland in 2009. Mackintosh played 88 Super Rugby matches for the Highlanders and Chiefs and represented Southland 122 times winning the Ranfurly Shield twice. At 130kg, Mackintosh had the brawn to trample but became better with nuance.

Because of injuries, hooker has become a revolving door at the Hurricanes. Overplaying your hand comes attached with higher risk.

“All the hookers are here for a reason. They’ve worked hard, have the talent, and trust the process. My job is to make them more comfortable and embrace challenges,” Numia said.

An ankle injury is proving challenging for Tyrel Lomax to overcome. Together Lomax and Numia have mangled scrums. Numia credits the All Blacks tighthead for making him a better player.

“We’ve got strong chemistry on and off the field. I’ve learned a lot from him; what he needs from me and what gets under the skin of a tighthead.”

Following an unprecedented eight consecutive wins to start the season, the Hurricanes have lost two matches in the past month. Numia isn’t panicking with the end goal to “win the championship” by “building on learnings week to week.”

Set Plays

10
Scrums
2
80%
Scrum Win %
100%
11
Lineout
21
91%
Lineout Win %
95%
5
Restarts Received
5
100%
Restarts Received Win %
100%

Numia’s partner Marcelle Parkes will get an education on Saturday. Marcelle plays her first Test match off the bench as a loosehead prop for the Black Ferns against Australia at North Harbour Stadium. Parkes was a loose forward until this season.

“I have no doubt she’ll be good at prop. She’s good around the field. A lot of people haven’t seen the hard work she’s put in at the scrum. I’m stoked she gets the opportunity,” Numia said.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

5 Comments
B
Bret 26 days ago

for mine every player selected for the AB's must always be physically and mentally fit, healthy, injury free and totally honest about their current situations so as not to disrespect the AB Jersey by failing to do so just to wear it…Go the AB's…

A
Andrew 26 days ago

Whooper’ is Hurricanes forward coach Jamie Mackintosh. The former All Blacks prop was one of New Zealand’s most redoubtable scrummagers, famously employing a bed in an Edinburgh hotel room as a makeshift scrum machine before his Test debut against Scotland in 2009.

Bollocks. Whopper (not Whooper)aka Jamie Mackintosh ay be a great coach but he was a big tub of lard, a completely hopeless AB prop disappearing without trace after that sole Scotland test after the Scots TH half his size took him to the cleaners despite the ABs winning. Stop being ignorant.

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Flankly 15 hours ago
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