Super Rugby Pacific: Hurricanes vice-captaincy designed to unlock Asafo Aumua's All Blacks potential

New Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw admits Asafo Aumua's elevation to vice-captaincy is an attempt to restore his play back to a level that has seen him in and out of the All Blacks programme through his career.

The blockbusting hooker possesses a skillset that place him among the most exciting players in New Zealand rugby, but his inability to maintain any consistency of performance has ultimately hampered his international prospects.

Aumua, 26, has been on the All Blacks radar since 2017 - before his Super Rugby debut - when he scored a hattrick of tries to propel the national U20 team to a world championship, and made a couple of senior appearances against the Barbarians and the French XV on their end-of-year northern hemisphere tour.

Asafo Aumua in action for the Hurricanes.
Asafo Aumua in action for the Hurricanes. Photo credit: Getty Images

He had to wait another three years for his test debut in a Tri-Nations defeat to Australia, but hasn't been able to command a regular spot under former coach Ian Foster.

With former Hurricanes teammate Dane Coles now retired, the door is again ajar for Aumua and Laidlaw hopes his new responsibility - under veteran loose forward Brad Shields and alongside seasoned All Blacks midfielder Jordie Barrett - will unlock his potential. 

"Obviously, when you pick leaders, you hope it will enhance their game," said Laidlaw. "Asafo and Jordie are good examples, where you're trying to grow them and take them to another level.

"Part of that, we think, is having a leadership role within the team. Asafo has had an injury-plagued few years.

"He's had his first pre-season since 2019 and he's fully on fire in pre-season. We think giving him the [vice] captaincy can help grow his game.

"He now needs to role-model what he wants the team to look like and it allows me to push him hard, push Jordie hard to keep improving. If he does that, he'll get that consistency in his game, which we're all craving, including him.

"That's going to give him far more starts, more wins for us and, if he's good enough, potentially more test-match rugby."

The Hurricanes open their 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign against Western Force on February 24.