Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks: Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina made it.....just. Fullstop. 100 caps for the All Blacks, neat and tidy. That summarized his work which came with the honour of being the first back and second player to accumulate a century of test caps before injury knocked him out of the 2011 World Cup.

He was being challenged hard for his position with Israel Dagg and Isaia Toeava offering the cutting edge which Muliaina had until he was dulled by damage and time in the game.

His battles through life and rugby were to be admired as he overcame those obstacles to take his place in the All Black hall of fame.

The All Blacks were scratching for the best fullback solution in the post Cullen era and the high performance low-level mistake rate Muliaina brought to his rugby, commended him to the position.

Once he got a start against Wales in 2003, Muliaina was a soaring success in the No 15 jersey where his pace and positional play offered an even greater attacking thrust through the All Black threequarters.

He did not have a huge kicking game but his defence was immaculate, his courage under the high ball and option-taking was precise.

He joined a collection of other Samoan Kiwis who captained the All Blacks although that was a tough personal experience in 2009 against France and Italy.

There were also rocky times at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups until third time lucky four years later at Eden Park.

Gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and World Cup are in his bag, so too a Super rugby gold with the Blues while we wait to see whether he can rekindle his spark and perhaps nail another with his return to the Chiefs this season.

Statistics
Date of birth: 31 July 1980
Position: Fullback
Test debut: 14 June 2003 v England at Wellington
Final test: 9 October 2011 v Argentina at Auckland
Matches: 102
Tests: 100
Provinces: Auckland, Waikato
Franchises: Blues, Chiefs
Test tries: 34
Test points: 170

- NZ Herald

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