High-flying Hawk to join World Cup quest

Viliami Raea Picture: Jonathan CarrollWHEN Hamilton No.8 Viliami Raea was selected in the Cook Islands national side he sent his Hawks coach Scott Coleman a text message to ask for permission to play.

It was a request that Coleman was quick to approve.

The powerhouse from Auckland returns to New Zealand on Saturday for a four-day training camp before he flies with the Cook Islands squad to Papua New Guinea to take part in the Oceania Cup.

Starting on July 6, the Oceania Cup is a four-nation round-robin tournament that also features the Solomon Islands and Tahiti.

The tournament doubles as a Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying event.

The winner will face Fiji next year to play-off for the Oceania one position to join Australia, hosts England and Wales in Pool A.

Born in New Zealand, Raea qualifies for the Cook Islands due to his parents.

‘‘I said for ‘sure mate’, as we’re all for it,’’ Coleman said when Raea broke the news to him.

‘‘We’d love for him to go away.

‘‘We’re all for our guys being pushed to the best of their ability.

‘‘If that’s going to Sydney to play, we’re right behind them.’’

Raea arrived at Passmore Oval this season from Auckland after he was lured across the ditch to play with his friends, and Hawks team-mates, Steve Sione and Tiueti Asi.

‘‘Hamilton were looking for a lock and they sent me a message and I was pretty interested,’’ Raea said. ‘‘I hadn’t been to Newcastle before so I was interested in trying new things.’’

Before he moved to Australia, Raea spent time at Rugby-Bundesliga club SC 1880 Frankfurt.

In 10 rounds with the competition leaders, the 192-centimetre, 120-kilogram hulk has left a lasting impression.

Asked what Raea has brought to the Hawks, Coleman said: ‘‘Size. He’s a big unit and a monster.

‘‘He’s pretty fast too for a big fella. He just brings impact more than anything.

‘‘His work rate still has a little bit to be worked on but as far as his impact, everything he does is pretty hard to stop.’’

Raea said his call-up for the Cooks Islands was unexpected. Since they made their international debut in 1971, the tiny Pacific Island nation has never qualified for the World Cup.

‘‘Hopefully we can make it as they’re saying it’s the strongest team they have ever picked,’’ Raea said.