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The US Eagles can thank All Blacks head coach Graham Henry for helping to prime one of their deadliest attacking weapons, explosive centre Andrew Suniula.
Suniula was born in American Samoa but attended Kelston Boys High School in Auckland where Henry was headmaster from 1987 to 1996.
“He’d come in (to training) sometimes,” Suniula said.
“The Sports Institute training clashed with music class, and he gave me the nod to go with the sports side, because I quite liked my music as well.”
Suniula played alongside New Zealand full back Mils Muliaina at Kelston, and believes the discipline imbued in them there helped both in their careers.
“We were level-headed, we worked hard at school. It was our theme at the time, you work hard and you get places - that was instilled in me as well.”
But the USA man travelled a less conventional path than his old schoolmate before arriving at Rugby World Cup 2011.
Suniula, who also played with future All Blacks such as Sam Tuitupou, Mose Tuiali'i and Sione Lauaki as a youngster, started his career with Taranaki in New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship. He then spent a year in Australia playing rugby league before making the switch to union when he moved to the USA to play for the Chicago Griffins.
The 29-year-old has just landed a contract with English side Cornish Pirates and will line up for USA’s opening match against Ireland on Sunday alongside his younger brother and centre partner, Roland Suniula, 24.
“When I was playing rugby league and this guy (Roland) was playing rugby, I never thought I’d get a chance to play with him, especially on a stage like this. So I want to embrace every moment of it,” he said.
Roland, 24, who made his debut against Ireland in 2009, is also grateful for a chance to play with his brother.
“Because of the age gap, I’ve always been in a position to look up to him and try to follow in his footsteps,” he said.
“You don’t get the opportunity to play with your brother that much, and since we have been given the opportunity it’s been fun.”
A third Suniula sibling, their younger brother Shalom, missed out on selection for the Eagles’ world cup squad but Andrew and Roland are sure he will soon join them on the international stage.
“He handles himself pretty well, he’s trying to find his feet at 10 (fly half) and full back,” Roland said.
“Yeah, we could see the Suniula boys at 10, 12 and 13,” Andrew laughed. “That’d be pretty cool.”