Super Rugby Pacific: New Crusaders recruit Christian Lio-Willie shares dental hygiene tips with teammates

New recruit Christian Lio-Willie is beaming over his impending Crusaders debut and hopes to make smiles contagious among his teammates.

But the Otago University dentistry graduate admits he may have his work cut out.

"That Tamaiti Williams has a pretty good grill," he winks. "But I've been getting around them,"

"We all got some new electric toothbrushes the other day, special on at New World.

"[Management] are trying to get me to talk to them, but, nah... maybe for a bit of coin on the side. 

"I'll be getting around, get some flossing in. Some of the boys haven't even heard of a toothbrush yet."

The cheeky loose forward has been named for his first Crusaders appearance off the bench against the Chiefs on Friday, after two games for the Highlanders last season.

Lio-Willie, 24, burst onto the representative radar since his matchwinning try on debut for Otago against Southland in 2021 and was late call-up for New Zealand A on their northern tour late last year.

"I'm really excited and blessed to be in the position I'm in," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get the opportunity on Friday to go out there and showcase it." 

"I'm flatting with two of the boys who are new to flatting and it's my first time flatting. Christchurch has been pretty nice already."

Qualifying as a dentist has always been part of the long-term career path, even as Lio-Willie pursued his professional rugby goal.

"Mum's been drilling that into me since school, so I've ticked that off and hopefully I'll have something good to fall back on, once I've finished with rugby.

Christian Lio-Willie in action for Highlanders
Christian Lio-Willie in action for Highlanders. Photo credit: Photosport

"Growing up, playing rugby was always my dream, but for my family, schooling was first, because that's what we came over to New Zealand for. Now that I've ticked that off, I can do what I want to do best and something I love to do.

"They will be very proud of me."

Despite his previous experience with Otago and the Highlanders, he admits the Crusaders represent a definite step up in intensity, as they shoot for their seventh Super Rugby crown in as many years.

"Just the detail that they're driving here," said Lio-Willie. "I'm basically new to the Super Rugby season and environment, and the way they carry themselves in training and off-field... it's a very well-oiled machine.

"Watching on TV and especially social media, and then rubbing shoulders with them, it's defnitely a dream come true. I'm just trying to add my own flavour to the group as well, and they're getting around me and encouraging me."     

Join us at 7:05pm Friday for live updates of the Crusaders v Chiefs Super Rugby clash