In his early years, Ma'a Nonu was noted more for his failings than his strengths. His hands let him down and his positional sense was a rough work in progress.

But from day one, his ability to leave an opponent for dead was obvious. Ball in hand, he was - and still is - lethal.

He made his test debut in the infamous defeat to England, just before the 2003 World Cup.

He was on the periphery of the squad and missed the cut for 2007.


But since 2008, Nonu has been the first cab off the rank for the No12 jersey, and today he keeps out the considerable talent of Sonny Bill Williams.

Nonu is more dangerous than ever and has ironed out the weaknesses. He is the player most likely to manage a clean line break.

Like a certain someone, he has a decent offload in the tackle and, in space, his passes are accurate and swift.

His ability to get over the gainline is crucial.

In a head-on tackle, Nonu's size and strength keep the All Blacks on the front foot.

He has been one of the more enigmatic figures to don a black jersey. It's hard to think of anyone in the days of George Nepia or Pinetree who would have taken to the field in eyeliner.

Position: Midfielder
Tests: 60
Born: May 21, 1982, Wellington
Stats: 1.82m, 110kg

Wellington and Hurricanes