OSAKA, 9 Oct – Tonga's Siua Maile has been presented with another opportunity to continue his spectacular journey from Christchurch roofer to Rugby World Cup star - and all in the space of six weeks he will never forget.
The Pacific Islanders, whose final Pool C match is against USA in Hanazono on Sunday, will be without hooker Sosefo Sakalia after it was confirmed that he had injured a medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his knee after coming on as a replacement in Tonga's narrow 23-21 defeat by France on Sunday.
As Tonga, like USA and Argentina, are unable to progress from the pool in which England and France have won all their games, no replacement is being called up, leaving Maile and Paula Ngauamo the two remaining hookers.
A few weeks ago the 22-year-old Maile had never played a first-class match and was, according to coach Toutai Kefu, hard at work "nailing tin roofs to houses" when the Tongans spotted footage of him playing on Facebook just as they needed injury cover for their final warm-up game against New Zealand.
It was a voyage into the unknown for Maile, who had been playing amateur rugby for Shirley in Christchurch. "I went to Auckland Airport, but I didn't know anyone and they didn’t know me," said the youngest member of the Sea Eagles squad. "Since then it’s just been great, to be honest."
Far from being just cover for the All Blacks match, further injuries meant he was in the starting XV and was up against Codie Taylor, a veteran of more than 40 tests.
Tonga lost that match 92-7 in Hamilton and it was as tough as Maile had expected. "I was a little bit nervous before the start, but once I was playing it was not too bad," he said.
As Ngauamo was recovering from injury, Maile, below, was among the replacements against England at the Sapporo Dome, coming on for Sakalia for the final 20 minutes, pictured above.
There he found himself opposing Luke Cowan-Dickie, who had replaced Jamie George moments earlier. England scored only once in the time Maile was on the pitch in their 35-3 victory.
Maile was a spectator for the defeats against Argentina and France, but should now have the chance to put himself in the shop window again.
"I don’t know what's happening yet," he said, when asked what was in store for him after RWC 2019.
"I need a bit of a rest, but the (roofing) job's still there. This is the biggest stage in rugby, though, and hopefully things will come my way. I’m just trying to do my thing."