Hyland-er hoping for Māori ABs debut against Fiji

By James Perry

Among the names of the Māori All Blacks squad named to take on Fiji this week is unheralded Ngāi Tahu outside back, Jordan Hyland.

The winger has only played a handful of minutes of Super Rugby for the Highlanders and the Blues over the past 12 months and is possibly the most unknown member of the squad. 

Born and raised in Auckland, Hyland's roots lie some 1500kms south. 

"My marae is based in Invercargill, in Riverton.  Thanks to my mum, she's got the Māori roots in her, which is pretty awesome," he says.

Having only played 20 minutes of Super Rugby for the Highlanders this year, his selection to Clayton McMillan's Māori All Blacks team has come as a bit of a surprise to the Ngāi Tahu winger. 

"It's a bit of an honour, a bit of a surprise as well.  I've only come into the Super Rugby scene in the last two years as an injury replacement, not fully contracted.

"I had a few years up north with [Northland Taniwa] and being lucky enough to get looked at by the Māoris is pretty awesome for me, and a massive moment for my family."

Hyland made his Super Rugby debut last year for the Blues against the Sunwolves. Although he scored two tries in the 24-10 win in Tokyo he hasn't been able to secure a full-time contract yet, he's hoping a strong showing with the Māori team can change that. 

"I'm just focusing on these next two games and trying to give myself an opportunity to get amongst the mixer and whatever comes after that is a bonus.  But yeah, putting my hand up and giving myself an opportunity is definitely what I'm looking at- as well for looking forward to next year," he says.

The Māori team spent the weekend at a Rotorua marae, where Hyland says they got a crash course in te reo Māori and an opportunity to learn and experience the team culture, including learning the team haka, as well as learning and listening to stories of Apumoana Marae.

"Staying at the marae in Rotorua was pretty special for me," Hyland says, "I'd only done it a couple of times as a young fella, so staying ... there with a whole bunch of guys I definitely think was a great idea, just to get that bond straight away."

However, should Hyland be named in the side for this week's first game against Fiji, he says he will need a bit more practice with the haka. 

The game kicks off on Saturday afternoon at 3.00pm in Suva.