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Western Force centre Henry Taefu’s remarkable rise to international rugby

Western Force centre Henry Taefu has made a remarkable rise to international rugby after needing life-saving surgery five years ago.

And he says his selection for Samoa’s northern hemisphere tour next month is recognition for the Western Force.

Taefu will be looking to add to his one Test against Tonga last year when Samoa play the USA, Georgia and Spain as part of their World Cup build-up.

Having missed out on Samoa’s last tour selection came as a complete surprise for 25-year-old Taefu who played for Australia in the 2013 Junior World Cup.

“I wasn’t expecting it. I’m stoked,” Taefu said.

“It’s a huge honour for myself but it goes to show that the Force is being recognised. We are being seen and we are being heard.

“It shows that what we are doing here is working.

“It’s an honour to represent your country and heritage and hopefully my form can take me to the next stage and I can make the World Cup.”

But before next month’s tour Taefu has some National Rugby Championship business to finish, starting with Saturday afternoon’s clash when second placed Force take on leaders Fiji Drua at UWA Sports Park.

The Force are just one point behind Fiji and the winner is guaranteed a home semi-final.

But the size of the task is well illustrated by competition statistics that show the free-running Fijians have made the most metres, carries, clean breaks , offloads and beaten more defenders than any other side.

They also have the competition top scorer in Apisalome Waqatabu who has amassed 79 points including seven tries.

“We are looking to put our mark on this game. This game is a mini grand-final,” Taefu said.

“They are big and powerful and have the offload. We have to bring physicality, be aggressive and match them.

“They all have a sevens background and want an unstructured game. We have to hold on to the ball for as long as possible and not give it away easily.”

Taefu nearly didn’t make it to his 21st birthday.

Shoulder reconstruction surgery after the 2013 Junior World Cup saved his life when surgeons discovered an adrenal gland tumour the size of a tennis ball.

“After the operation my blood pressure went up to 250, it’s normally between 120 and 130, and that doesn’t usually happen to someone so fit and young,” Taefu said.

“They did a further prognosis and found a really rare tumour in my adrenal gland.

“The doctor said I was lucky. There’s a 50 per cent mortality rate when you have a tumour like that and you have surgery.

“I was lucky that it had not progressed to cancer and my fitness helped me fight it. I guess I was lucky I got injured. I’m lucky I can still play rugby.”

Western Force: Harrison Lloyd, Heath Tessmann, Kieran Longbottom, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jeremy Thrush, Tevin Ferris, Chris Alcock, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior (c), Andrew Deegan, Rod Davies, Rodney Iona, Henry Taefu, Brad Lacey, Jack McGregor. Reserves: Feleti Kaitu’u, Cameron Orr, Chris Heiberg, Leon Power, Henry Stowers, Issak Fines, AJ Alatimu, Clay Uyen.

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