Izaiha Moore-Aiono made a try-scoring debut for England U20s in their impressive 35-8 victory over the Junior Springboks last month. However, the Red Rose is not the only international badge this talented back rower is eligible to wear.
Born in New Zealand of Samoan and Maori parents, Moore-Aiono left Auckland for Australia when he was six and spent a number of his formative years playing Rugby League in the junior section of NRL side North Queensland Cowboys.
He happens to qualify for all four countries but it is England who have the head-start after he moved here aged 13 and began his transition into Rugby Union at Bracknell RFC before being picked up by Irish after representing Berkshire.
“All bases are covered,” jokes Moore-Aiono, 19, who recently extended his contract with London Irish’s senior academy.
“It was great to make my England U20s debut. I did a few training camps earlier in the year and then got a late call-up for the South Africa game, so to get on and score a try in a very good win, it couldn’t have gone better.
“I’ve had a talk to the coaches and at the moment I’m a fringe player for the Junior World Cup, but they’ve told me to be ready because they could call at any time. I’ll be keen for the opportunity, of course, but if it doesn’t happen this time, I’ve got another year.”
Moore-Aiono’s fleet-footed, hard running style comes as no surprise given the three men he identifies as role models – namely, London Irish coach and ex-flanker Declan Danaher, New Zealand ace Ardie Savea and one of his senior London Irish teammates, the mighty TJ Ioane.
Moore-Aiono – who is 6ft 1in and weights 99kgs (15st 9lbs) – explained: “Declan’s a huge influence. He’s been there since I started out with London Irish’s academy and a lot of my game is based around his teaching. He was a top player for Irish and it’s great to have him coaching.
“I also look up to TJ Ioane because he’s a bit like me, one of those smaller back row figures but with a lot of impact when he carries. Wider afield, a guy I admire a lot is Ardie Savea and my game’s based quite a lot on how versatile he is. He’s like a centre playing as a back row, just different to any other player, and he’s on fire the way he’s playing right now.”
After being dual-registered at Esher this season, Moore-Aiono aims to step up his involvement at Irish from the get-go now.
He added: “With no A-League this season, it was important to have a loan club and I had a good year with Esher. It was frustrating to lose matches by small margins and be relegated but I played 13 or 14 games and it was hugely beneficial.
“It’s a great club with a good culture but I’ll hope to get A-League and Premiership Cup action at Irish early next season. There’s a lot of excitement at the club.”
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