Opinion: Malakai Fekitoa - from All Blacks reject to potential Lion tamer

Malakai Fekitoa in action for the Highlanders against the Lions.
Malakai Fekitoa in action for the Highlanders against the Lions. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: Three weeks is a long time in professional sport - just ask Malakai Fekitoa.

Answering an SOS of sorts from coach Steve Hansen on Sunday after being called into the All Blacks team for the third Test against the Lions, the 25-year-old has showed just how quickly a player can go from reject to potential game-breaker.

Off-contract with New Zealand Rugby at the end of the season, Fekitoa's omission from the All Blacks squad for the Lions series looked almost certain to trigger a desire to pursue big money overseas deals.

However, despite the Tongan midfielder strongly being linked with French glamour club Toulon, an official announcement is yet to be made. With his inclusion in the All Blacks for the crescendo of the Lions series, it will likely now be a little while off.

The decision to pursue a deal with Toulon - reportedly fielded since February - must be also now up in the air for Fekitoa, who would have to be re-evaluating where he sits in the pecking order of New Zealand rugby.

Had an announcement been made of a Toulon signing last week, which is when it was initially expected, it wouldn't have sat well with the powers that be at New Zealand Rugby or the country's rugby fans. It would have also damaged his chance of a call-up.

But it wasn't to be, and with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty likely ruled out of the third Test and Ngani Laumape still a little too green to face the circling Lions, Fekitoa's inclusion shows he still very much has a place in New Zealand rugby.

Now, instead of looking forward to next season where another contract and perhaps another team await, Fekitoa's scope has changed significantly with everything pointing to Saturday.

Looking like he could be rushed into the All Blacks starting line-up to partner Anton Lienert-Brown, he could very much be the game-breaker the team needs.

Should he prove his value to the All Blacks selectors on Saturday night - well, that could change everything.

Matt Tewhatu is a digital producer for Newshub.

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