Taqele Naiyaravoro could have Jarryd Hayne-like impact on Wallabies debut against United States
Sam Bruce in South Bend, Indiana
September 3, 2015
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If the American fans making their way to Soldier Field for the rugby Test between the United States and Australia are hoping to see an athlete similar to San Francisco 49ers recruit Jarryd Hayne, they should look no further than powerhouse replacement Taqele Naiyaravoro.

The Fiji-born winger will make his Test debut against the Eagles after earning a late call-up to the touring squad on Sunday. Naiyaravoro was the subject of a Tug-O-War battle between Australia and Fiji before the Wallabies eventually won the right to secure his services; he will not however be taking part in the Rugby World Cup.

That won't worry the local fans in Chicago, though, particularly if Naiyaravoro is given some space to run when he comes onto the field. The 23-year-old has a tackle-busting ability few in world rugby can match;and while that differs slightly from the skills Hayne has been using to excellent effect during the NFL pre-season, the Fijian's power cannot be understated.

"I'm not really a fast person to try and run around people, and that's what wingers are known for," Naiyaravoro said. "I'm just trying to use what I have. I'm not as fast as Jarryd Hayne … but he has really opened up a lot of opportunities for Australian [rugby] league boys and union; but overall footballers in Australia have really liked what he's doing. It's good."

Taqele Naiyaravoro will make his Test debut against the States this weekend © Getty Images

Naiyaravoro was himself a rugby league player until early last year. The Fijian was plucked from the lower grades of NRL club Wests Tigers by then Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, the man who has handed him his Test debut this week.

"I'm pretty speechless at the moment; it's a big opportunity for me," Naiyaravoro said of his Test debut. "I only made the switch to [rugby] union last year and it's really happened quickly, and I'm really excited and honoured to take that position.

"I didn't really think of making the Wallabies after just a few months of switching [codes]. It's really a big step for me and it's a lot of commitment and sacrifice made to get this position; it's exciting, yeah. Coming from Fiji and making this Australian team, it's a huge honour and a big step for me."

Another huge step came in the decision to choose the Wallabies over Fiji. Had Naiyaravoro agreed to play with the Pacific Islanders, there is little doubt he would have made their World Cup squad and, ironically, lined up against Australia in a tough Pool A.

"It was really hard for me, I can tell you it wasn't easy making this commitment to Australia," he said. "But saying that, I've just been here for around four years in Australia. But I guess it's just the opportunity…and I will take it with both hands."

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