Bledisloe Cup 2020: All Blacks start completes Tupou Vaa'i's remarkable rise

Promising young lock Tupou Vaai's remarkable rise will be capped off with a start for the All Blacks in Sunday's second Bledisloe Cup test in Auckland. 

The 20-year-old has gone from missing out on selection in the opening seven rounds of this year's Super Rugby competition with the Chiefs to a starting berth in a high stakes test against the Wallabies.

Even Vaa'i himself has been left dazed by his ascent, admitting he's shocked with how quickly his All Blacks dreams have been realised. 

"It’s pretty crazy," Vaa'i says. 

"To be building timber fences during lockdown to debuting for the Chiefs, and I'm pretty stoked to be a part of this team."

Veteran Sam Whitelock's absence due to concussion issues has paved the way for Vaa'i to slot into the No.5 jersey at Eden Park.

"It's a dream come true and It’s come so fast as well.

"There is a bit of nerve and excitement. Heaps of emotions going through me but I'm pretty stoked to get out there and play test footy."

Teammate Codie Taylor admits that he had never heard of Vaa'i prior to Super Rugby Aotearoa, but the Taranaki lock had earned his black jersey. 

"The truth is I didn’t even know who he was at the start of the season," Taylor says. 

"But he's come on in leaps and bounds with the Chiefs and now he gets a chance to put on a black jersey at some stage. It's pretty cool."

All Blacks coach Ian Foster says Vaa'i's selection is just reward for his efforts and performance, both since joining the squad and in his debut last weekend.

"It's a vote of confidence in Tupou," Foster says. "He showed us during the training weeks that he has trained at a high level.

"He’s been in the role, done his system work the last two weeks and I think he should have been pretty proud of his work last week."

Join us at 4pm Sunday for live updates of the second All Blacks v Wallabies Bledisloe Cup test.