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Blues star Dalton Papali'i out to cement All Blacks loose forward spot as he signs for the Steelers

With key All Black loose forwards either injured or overseas, the door is wide open for rising Blues star and new Counties Manukau signing Dalton Papali'i to cement his spot.

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The door is open for rising Blues star and new Counties Manukau signing Dalton Papali'i to cement his spot as an All Blacks loose forward. Source: 1 NEWS

In a surprise move, the 22-year-old left Auckland to sign with the Steelers.

He says it’s all about getting out of his comfort zone.

“It's going be a great opportunity for me to grow myself - you know, being back at my other province,” he said.

“Everything was a bit spoon-fed to me so it's going be good to sort of go out on my own and try give back to a province that all my family was from here.”

Also here from Auckland is new Steelers head coach Tai Lavea. It's a winning combination that started at St Kentigern College.

“To have the ability to have someone still in the prime of his career, and have an ability to lean on him around his experience and knowledge at a young age, is going to be huge for this union,” Lavea said.

A three-Test All Black, Papali'i narrowly missed out on the World Cup squad

At 115 kilos and 193cm, he's ready to fill the void the All Blacks now have in the loose forwards and arguably has the perfect build for No.8.

“Well, you know, I can play all three - seven, six and eight. But at the end of the day…I want to go forward as is a seven,” he said.

Lavea agrees. 

“He wants to play seven...He's definitely a seven,” the coach said.

Papali'i has had limited time for Auckland and the Blues, but that won't be the case at Counties.

“It's always been a small club, but they've always said that it's quite rich in culture and everyone's a good bugger around here.”