All Blacks v Ireland: All Blacks selection catches Leicester Fainga'anuku by surprise in Super Rugby final prep

At first, Crusaders back Leicester Fainga'anuku thought he had missed out on All Blacks selection again, despite another powerhouse performance through Super Rugby Pacific.

Preparing for team training, with a grand final looming in a few days, Fainga'anuku, 22, had his mind on other matters, when the announcement was made.

"It's been a bizarre few hours," he said. "Watching the TV as a team and I didn't quite catch my name, until the boys started touching me and congratulating me, and that's when I realised 'I must be in here or something'.

"It's definitely you don't really get quite often. Very few get the opportunity to get named in the ABs squad and for me, personally, I'm truly grateful and blessed."

The utility back has filled equally well at centre or wing all season for the Crusaders, forcing his way into the weekly selection equation ahead of established All Blacks like George Bridge and Braydon Ennor, who have both missed out on the national team to face Ireland in July.

Considered unlucky to miss out last year, Fainga'anuku was simply too good to overlook again, leading Super Rugby Pacific with 10 tries this season. His elevation arrives, as the Crusaders prepare to face the Blues at Auckland's Eden Park in the competition final.

"It's been full on - the phone has been blowing," he said. "I haven't quite caught up with everyone yet, but I've had messages from family friends, school teachers, principals and everyone that's been part of my life.

"That's what makes it special - to understand and realise the amount of support and belief people have had in me since the day I picked up a footy ball.

"At the same time, I do it for those that aren't quite as lucky in life, due to disability or unfortunate circumstances. I do it for those that dream and only wish they could have these opportunities."

Fainga'anuku is one of six debutants named in the 36-man squad to face the Irish, alongside nine other Crusaders teammates - prop George Bower, hooker Codie Taylor, locks Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock, first-five Richie Mo'unga, midfielders David Havili and Jack Goodhue, and wingers Sevu Reece and Will Jordan. 

Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the Blues v Crusaders Super Rugby Pacific final