The rugby career of Samoa back Duncan Paia’aua is an object lesson in persistence - and talent

There’s no doubting the ability of Samoa’s Duncan Paia’aua.

The player himself modestly insists that his job on the rugby pitch is to make his team-mate’s lives as easy as possible. But the inside centre, who can also play fly-half, fullback and at 13, is something of a Swiss Army back.

Here are a few things you need to know about him.

Related: Samoa Rugby World Cup squad 2023

Ten facts about Duncan Paia’aua

Duncan Paia’aua was born in Porirua, on New Zealand’s North Island, on January 20, 1995. His family moved to Melbourne, Australia, when he was three years old.

He began playing rugby at Emmaus College, and joined Queensland, playing for the under-16 team in 2011.

He had a two-year stint in rugby league, with Brisbane Broncos Academy. He returned to rugby union in 2014, when he was recruited by the Queensland Reds.

He went to the Reds’ NRC feeder Queensland Country team to re-adapt to rugby union, before making his Super Rugby debut – at 10 – against Brumbies in February 2015. It was the only outing of his first season. The coaches preferred the more experienced Quade Cooper and Jake McIntyre.

Paia’aua’s breakthrough came in 2017 when he switched to inside centre, and formed a formidable midfield partnership with Samu Kerevi. He can play across the back line, but says he prefers wearing the 12 shirt.

He left Australia to join French Top 14 side Toulon in 2019. But he missed the entire 2019-20 campaign due to a combination of a pre-season Achilles injury and the Covid-19 pandemic. He finally made his Toulon bow against La Rochelle on September 5, 2020, more than a year after his arrival.

His international career is as stop-start as his club career. He played for Australia U20 in the 2015 World Junior Championship. Then, in October 2017, before he had passed a ball in Super Rugby, he was called up as an ‘apprentice’ to the Australian national team.

He played for an Australia XV in a non-cap match against Barbarians in October 2017, and scored 24 of his side’s 32 points. He was not called up again by then-coach Michael Cheika.

Cheika’s replacement Dave Rennie called him up for the 2021 Bledisloe Cup games. He didn’t play. Rennie selected him again for that year’s end-of-year tour to the northern hemisphere. Again, he could not break into the matchday 23.

He finally made his international debut – for Samoa, his parents’ birthplace – against Italy in the 2022 end of year internationals. His second cap, against Georgia, ended in a red card for a dangerous tackle. He was suspended for four matches.

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