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The Fijian Drua rookie backed to 'announce himself' in 2024

By Ned Lester
Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula with the ball in hand for Manawatu. Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images.

Super Rugby Pacific’s rookies are currently gearing up for the biggest year of their young careers, eager to impress in the 2024 season that is now just days away.

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Some have tasted Super Rugby action already, filling in for injured players, while others have been on the outside looking in, grinding to get their opportunity at the next level.

The promise of a new World Cup cycle adds further excitement and anticipation to the respective campaigns, with new opportunities for selection opening up after the departures of some household names.

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Former All Black James Parsons was asked on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod which of the newcomers he is most keen to see perform this season, and the pundit had one young talent in mind.

“I’m going to go for a young man that’s playing for the Drua, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula,” Parsons replied.

“The reason I’m saying that is he had some opportunities off the bench for Manawatu and he’s just one of those natural players that has time. Even when there’s line-speed pressure he looks completely relaxed.

“He is prepared to pull the trigger, he has a beautiful, flat pass. He’s explosive and can probably play 10 or 15. I don’t know where they see him, I haven’t got any footage of the Drua but hopefully they see him playing a starting role. If not then definitely a bench role and I think he’s the sort of player that will announce himself.”

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Armstrong-Ravula, a 20-year-old raised in Brisbane, played rugby league as a youngster before finding rugby union and moving to Christchurch, attending St Andrews College for his final two years of high school.

With Caleb Muntz sidelined for what is expected to be much of the Fijian Drua’s season, there is an opportunity for Armstrong-Ravula to get minutes at 10 in his debut season. He was named to start at 10 in the team’s 21-26 loss to the Rebels in pre-season trials.

Kemu Valentini and fellow rookie Isikeli Rabitu are the team’s other options at first five-eighth.

Parson’s co-panellist and former Super Rugby champion with the Crusaders Bryn Hall also chipped in with his picks for youngsters to keep an eye on.

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“Macca Springer is one that comes to mind at Super Rugby level,” Hall said. “Considering Leicester Fainga’anuku is gone and that winger role is open, Leigh Halfpenny and Will Jordan are also injured.

“I think he (Springer) is going to have a massive season and probably be in or around the starting unit and be able to give a massive impact for the Crusaders.

“I’ve also gone for the Highlanders, the number 10. Obviously, Rhys Patchell has come from Wales who is going to bring a different skillset for that Highlanders team, but Ajay Faleafaga is one number 10 to watch.

“I think he’s very similar to a Lima Sopoaga actually, or a Richie Mo’unga with his movements that he has as a 10 and I think he’s one guy – with Cam Millar who’s obviously the other number 10 there – I think he’s one guy that if Rhys Patchell isn’t the guy moving forward, he definitely has a big future.

“Those are the two men that I’ve chosen to look out for this year.”

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