Recalled All Black David Havili's commitment to being a 'fulltime midfielder'
It’s taken a positional change and a run of injury-free rugby, but David Havili has finally fought his way back into the All Blacks after spending three years in the international wilderness.
Havili first featured for the All Blacks in the latter stages of the 2017 season, notching up three appearances for the New Zealand national side in the outside backs.
While his form has been impeccable over the past few seasons, injuries have often come at the worst time for Havili, while the All Blacks have always had exceptional depth in the outside backs and particularly at fullback, where the 26-year-old used to call home.
Even at the Crusaders, Havili hasn’t exactly had a clear run in the No 15 jersey thanks to the presence of up-and-coming superstar Will Jordan while the All Blacks have called upon Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett and Damian McKenzie to play at fullback over the last year, while Ben Smith was also a roadblock before he left New Zealand’s shores at the end of 2019.
Havili was again immense for the Crusaders this year but it wasn’t in the No 15 jersey where he stood out, instead being asked to fill in at midfield due to injuries to Braydon Ennor and Jack Goodhue.
That positional change has now paved the way for Havili to return to the national set-up – but that was never a factor in the shift. It was simply to plug a gap that needed filling in the Crusaders backline, something which Havili has done expertly over his time with the team.
“That was just a thing that Razor [Crusaders coach Scott Robertson] mentioned to me, and yeah I just sort of ran with it,” Havili said regarding his positional switch for 2021.
“To be fair, at the time he just said ‘Oh you’re going to be playing 12’ and I said ‘Oh well, all right, I’ll give it a crack’ and sort of just ran with it from there. It wasn’t anything about making the All Blacks, it was just about doing my best for the team and at the time [that] was playing in midfield.”
Now, Havili is expected to perform a similar role for the national side and is one of just two specialist No 12s in the team, alongside new cap Quinn Tupaea. With Ennor – also recalled to the team – now out due to appendicitis and Anton Lienert-Brown unlikely to feature in the opening game also due to injury, it’s looking more and more likely that Havili will be given an extended run in the midfield in the upcoming tests against Tonga and Fiji.
“I’ve got a job to do in the midfield and that’s to focus on my role,” Havili said. “The more I can learn in the first couple of weeks and get my head around the gameplan and what they want from me is going to help me out immensely.
“I’m certainly searching for an opportunity but I just want to learn as much as I can. I’ve been out of the environment for a long time now and I’m getting out alongside ALB [Lienert-Brown] to really try and cement a position and just learn what he’s done over the few years. He’s a world-class player so the more I rub shoulders with him, the better I can be.”
There are some who still remember Ma'a Nonu as merely a simple wrecking ball. If that were truly the case, the #AllBlacks wouldn't still be struggling to fill the void left by the midfield centurion following the 2015 World Cup. @maavelous
?? Gregor Paulhttps://t.co/n0NM4EIUIU
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) June 24, 2021
Shifting out of the outside backs and meant that Havili has needed to add a bit of extra bulk to his frame, getting his weight up to 98kg – something which should come in use against the big Pacific Island midfielders that will be running at Havili in the coming weeks.
Despite the successful move to No 12, however, Havili isn’t ruling out a change in the future.
“[I’ve] thoroughly enjoyed playing the midfield this year and certainly want to carry that on,” he said. “I’m not going to scratch myself as a 15 just yet but for now, yeah, fulltime midfielder.”
The All Blacks kick off their test calendar with a game against Tonga at Mount Smart in Auckland next Saturday.
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