Touted as one of the best hooking prospects in New Zealand from an early age, Asafo Aumua realised he would need to make some changes in his life if he was ever going to live up to his outrageous potential.

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The devastating ball-carrier’s star shone brightest during Wellington’s 2017 Mitre 10 Cup campaign when Aumua notched up seven tries for the Lions – including one audacious effort that saw the 108kg hooker skim wing George Bridge on the outside.

Aumua was selected on the All Blacks‘ end of year tour following the provincial campaign and featured in two matches, despite not yet having played any Super Rugby.

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Despite that sudden rise to fame, however, Aumua didn’t immediately kick on. With Dane Coles and Ricky Riccitelli at the Hurricanes, minutes haven’t always been easy to come by for the wrecking ball.

A change in attitude has rocketed Aumua back into the national picture, however, with Aumua one of the most impressive players on display for the North Island side in their clash with the South.

That change was partially brought on due to the birth of Aumua’s first son last year.

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“When my son arrived, I just had to pull my head in, basically, and go hard for my family,” Aumua said following his call-up to the All Blacks squad.

“I just thought this is your only chance, rugby isn’t going to be around forever so I’ve got to make the most of this time.”

While Aumua’s prowess with the ball in hand has never been in question, it’s the core duties around the park that have required the most investment from the 23-year-old.

“Scrum, lineout are a real focus for me. I thought I did a bit better [during Super Rugby Aotearoa] than I did the previous years.”

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While Aumua’s large frame allows him to throw his weight around on the pitch, the hooker hasn’t always been quite so sizeable – but his appetite has thankfully actually decreased with time. During his teenage years, Aumua revealed that he was able to get through 16 pies in one sitting at one stage – something he’s confident he wouldn’t be able to ‘achieve’ now. That’s been one of the other massive changes that the front-rower has made, getting his off-field on the mark.

“Just getting more [training] extras in, working on the tools of the trade, and, off-field, eating properly and cutting out drinking as well,” Aumua said.

“Now I’m not drinking at all. I just decided that recently. I’ll have a few now and then on special occasions, like the end of the season with the lads.”

Aumua will run out Wellington on Saturday in their opening clash of the Mitre 10 Cup.

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