THERE have been some formidable New Zealand wingers over the years.
Tom Hadfield featured for them in the 1957 and 1960 World Cups along the way towards becoming the country’s then record try scorer and Phil Orchard earned fame after grabbing a try during the 1971 tour of these shores that secured the Kiwis’ first series win on British soil since the revered 1907-08 All Golds.
More recently, of course, there has been the blockbusting Lesley Vainikolo, whose hulking frame caused terror in Super League defences during his prolific six years with Bradford Bulls.
Dane O’Hara, who played in Hull’s famous 1985 Challenge Cup final defeat to Wigan, having cruelly missed through injury their victory over Widnes in an Elland Road replay three years earlier, was not too bad either.
But, speak to any Kiwi at the moment, and they will get animated about a young man who is endeavouring to emulate them all.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck may be only 20 years old but he has already made a huge impact for the current New Zealand side and has lit up this World Cup with his eye-catching displays so far.
Six tries in four tournament appearances only tells half the story; the Sydney Rooster is not just prolific – second only to England’s Ryan Hall – but has that splendid alchemy of both raw power and electric pace, too.
If he has not run over opponents, he has just run around them and he is sure to be a man marked out by England coach Steve McNamara for careful attention ahead of this afternoon’s semi-final.
With 25 tackle busts, Tuivasa-Sheck trails only the notoriously destructive Australia centre Greg Inglis (28), but no one has made more than his astonishing 641 metres in the competition so far.
His nearest rival is fellow countryman Isaac Luke but the effervescent hooker, who has generally darted from dummy half for the majority of his metres, is still way behind on 509.
Furthermore, his nine clean breaks clearly betters anyone else’s in the World Cup, and is nearly twice as many as the feted Sonny Bill Williams in second.
Frighteningly, Tuivasa-Sheck believes he still requires plenty of personal development.
“It is definitely not easy but I am working as hard as I can,” he said, as New Zealand try to secure a second successive title.
“There is so much to learn from all of the big boys and we have a very good forward pack so that makes the difference.
“I am the youngest in the camp and there are a lot of guys here that have so much experience for me to use to get better.
“Each day I just make sure that I am talking to them and picking up on anything that I can.
“Manu Vatuvei is someone that I really look up to and in training and in the matches we feed off each other’s ability. It’s so surreal I’m playing with guys like him as he was my idol growing up.”
Vatuvei is missing today after the bludgeoning player – who caused such carnage against England in their 2008 World Cup success and won the Tri-Nations at Elland Road three years earlier – pulled a groin in the quarter-final win over Scotland.
Jason Nightingale is a worthy replacement, though, so they are hardly diminished and Tuivasa-Sheck, it seems, will not be daunted needing to continue his own meteoric rise.
Only two years ago, he was playing as full-back for Otahuhu College in the NZRL’s National Secondary Schools’ tournament where, after captaining them to an upset title win, he picked up a contract with Roosters in the NRL.
He started last year in their Under-20s, quickly progressed to the reserve grade before making his senior debut against the Gold Coast Titans at the back end of the 2012 campaign.
This time around, Tuivasa-Sheck has flourished further, establishing himself as a regular on the right with his truly sublime footwork and helping the Roosters to Grand Final glory.
He was named in the Kiwis squad for the ANZAC Test in Canberra in April but was 18th man and only actually made his debut with a try versus Samoa in the World Cup opener at Warrington last month.
Tuivasa-Sheck, pictured, has scored in each game since, a feat he will hope to continue today against Hall, widely regarded as the best wing in the sport.
“A lot of my game comes from my dad,” he said. “He taught me all of the steps while I was playing touch rugby in New Zealand.
“I still play it back at home during the off-season in our family touch tournament; it’s great fun.
“Being called up to the World Cup is a dream come true for me.
“I had a good season with Sydney Roosters winning the Premiership so to be here is brilliant but playing England will definitely be a huge challenge.”
Come 3pm today, it might just be his dizzied opponents saying the same about him.