Another All Black prop down, another come-from-nowhere story. And this one is thanking Australian rugby for his fairytale rise.

Auckland born and bred Angus Ta'avao has sprung from virtually nowhere to join the All Black squad, with Joe Moody pulling out of the Rugby Championship campaign because of a thumb injury.

Whether he gets to take the field is another story. But for now, this is a good news story nonetheless.

Ta'avao went into the 2018 season without a Super Rugby deal. But like his cult-hero Chiefs front row mate Karl Tu'inukuafe, he's made every post a winner after the Hamilton-based franchise lost three test candidates to injury.

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Auckland-raised tighthead Ta'avao, aged 28, re-joined Taranaki last year after a two-year break. The 120kg-plus prop has always been an exceptional prospect around the field, but scrummaging issues looked to have consigned him to a journeyman career.

That journey included two seasons with the Waratahs.

"The big question of me has always been my scrummaging and I feel I have stepped up this year," he told the Radio Sport Breakfast.

"The Chiefs had a solid scrum and worked well as a pack."

"I also picked up a couple of routines in Sydney to help strengthen my lower back - I've had issues going on in my earlier seasons."

He has also been inspired by his baby son Leo, who battled a severe genetic disorder since his birth early last year.

Leo's health situation was a major reason why Ta'avao and partner Kristyn Bradfield were keen to return to New Zealand, rather than search for another overseas contract.

Ta'avao only had a pre-season deal with the Chiefs, who are coached by his old Taranaki mentor Colin Cooper, until they lost Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli and Kane Hames.

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"I've shed a few tears, it's been a pretty big couple of days," said Ta'avao about his test squad call-up.

"I was only supposed to be with the Chiefs until January. I never thought too much about the next level - I was just enjoying playing."


Ta'avao was called by All Blacks manager Darren Shand on Tuesday night, and only told his provincial team mates after their narrow win over Counties-Manukau in Auckland on Wednesday.

Whereas the Blues-bound loosehead Karl Tu'inukuafe, an attacking scrummager, is firming as a World Cup prospect, Ta'avao faces a tougher task becoming a long-term test forward.


Owen Franks owns the starting tighthead position while Ta'avao's Chiefs team mates Laulala and the rising Moli are ahead of him in the pecking order, along with the injured Hurricanes frontrower Jeff Toomaga-Allen. The current squad also includes the utility prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: "Angus had a big season for the Chiefs during Super Rugby, was part of a very good Chiefs pack and has made big strides on the technical aspects of his position."