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The three heaviest players in New Zealand that bring Uini Atonio-level size

By Ben Smith
(Photos by Franco Arland/Getty Images and Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

New Zealand teams have been undone by power teams on occasion as the game continues to grow with size becoming a large component of the equation.

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At the U20 World Championships in 2023 New Zealand were overpowered by France U20 and the colossal might of lock Posolo Tuilagi weighing in at 149kgs and other massive French forwards.

Tuilagi scored a double in the 35-14 victory, leading head coach Clark Laidlaw to claim that “these men have never come up against forwards that are 150kgs and two or three of them all in the same forward pack, so we have got to learn how we deal with that.”

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The All Blacks were undone by the French in the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup where France’s scrum was used to win penalties and points. Former New Zealand schoolboy prop Uini Atonio, clocking in at 145kg, seemed to get the better of loosehead Ethan de Groot.

There is a misconception that New Zealand has limited power options to combat this trend of monster-sized forwards, but in the 2024 Super Rugby squads there are three props who possess the size of Atonio.

The issue for those players is the All Blacks will never select solely on size & power, with technique, skill, mobility, work rate and a host of other intangibles needed to earn selection.

But these prospects provide a level of size that doesn’t grow on trees. The Highlanders, Crusaders and Hurricanes have on the rosters the three heaviest players in New Zealand.

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The first is one that every rugby fan in New Zealand knows about, 2023 All Black debutant Tamaiti Williams, listed at 144kg by the Crusaders.

The 6 ft 5 prop debuted against the Springboks at Mt Smart and featured in eight Tests in 2023 during the Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup.

Williams was handed big minutes at the Crusaders as they managed an injury crisis that saw veteran John Afoa drafted in as cover after losing Fletcher Newell, George Bower.

It was the 23-year-old who logged 70 plus minutes in multiple games as a tighthead which lead to his call-up with the national side.

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Williams possesses a frame that will be of incredible value as his game develops and he becomes established at international level.

The next prospect is Saula Ma’u, a Tongan-born tighthead prop with the Highlanders who clocks in at 140kg.

After finishing school in Auckland, Ma’u has spent three seasons with Otago in the NPC before making his Highlanders debut in 2022.

Injury setbacks kept him out of action prior to his Super Rugby debut, and he has since logged 22 games for the Highlanders.

He will enter his third year of Super Rugby Pacific at just 23 years old and compete for game time at tighthead with veteran Jermaine Ainsley and young Nelson-product Luca Inch.

The third is Bay of Plenty product Pasilio Tosi who is listed at 140kg and is signed with the Hurricanes.

Tosi is a former No 8 turned prop with strong ball carrying ability that the Hurricanes first picked up in 2021. His debut came in 2022 where he made four appearances and continued that with six more this year.

The 25-year-old will likely deputise for All Black starter Tyrel Lomax in 2024 and look to bring impact late in games off the bench for the Hurricanes.

Size isn’t everything but these three players are the only ones in New Zealand who clock in over the 140kg mark. Even players that reach 130kg are rare, with none currently listed on New Zealand’s Super Rugby rosters currently.

Which means Williams, Tosi and Ma’u have at least 10kg on every other player that they will face in 2024.

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Eabn 7 hours ago
Open-minded Schmidt takes hands-on approach to Australia challenge

Who cares - boring is good when it comes to Media - they don’t bug you as much. While the focus is on the resurrection of the Wallabies, don’t forget the grass roots - Any opportunity you have to visit, train or promote Rugby down here in Melbourne / Regional is pretty much imperative given the current situation with the Rebels. I’m talking about us grass roots clubs and more so, clubs in the West of Melbourne who are being absolutely smashed by Rugby League and who have been contributing directly to the game down here long before the Rebels emerged and no doubt will do so well after they may be gone. All I have heard is all about the elite level, not the grass roots level so while the talk is about “ The Wallabies” and “Super Rugby Pacific” get back to the roots of Union and include us in your plans. So Phil Waugh and those leaders within RugbyAustralia, it’s on you to ensure the bottom feeders, so to speak, are included in all the talk and the funding if you want Union to regain ground and more respect within the Union and also the broader sporting fraternity. Given you have been in Melbourne a number off times over the last month, extending the courtesy of having a meet and greet with Victorian grass root clubs eluded you for some reason. Do we count or matter in RA’s and yours bigger picture?? Ean Drummond - Club Founder/President - Wyndham City Rhinos RUFC Inc. Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne.

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