Willis Halaholo overcomes hate to complete transition from Auckland reject to Six Nations champion

It has been a whirlwind year for Willis Halaholo, with the new Welsh cap completing one of rugby's great stories in going from Auckland reject to Six Nations champion.

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From living in a West Auckland basement to a Six Nations title, it's been a rollercoaster ride for Halaholo. Source: 1 NEWS

Turn back the clock a decade and Halaholo was an unwanted club player living in a West Auckland basement.

He was thrown a lifeline by Southland and went on to win a Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes in 2016.

But there was no offer to stay, his only opportunity came from Cardiff, where he was picked for Wales by Wayne Pivac - the former Auckland coach who rejected him, sparking his journey around the world.

"He couldn't give me a contract hence why I took the contract down in Southland," Halaholo told 1 NEWS.

"But it's come full circle eight, nine years later and he's given me another chance."

His wife, and Mt Albert Grammar School sweetheart, Sandra, has documented their journey - from living in a Te Atatu basement when Willis cleaned diggers to support them - to now one of a handful of Pasifika families living in Cardiff with two Welsh-born daughters.

He waited four years to finally represent the country his family now calls home, even fighting back from a torn ACL that happened days before his first Wales call-up in 2019.

But when the chance finally came to follow other Kiwi-born players into the Welsh side, he was greeted with a wave of online hate, with some fans saying he was not welcome.

They soon came around once he took to the hallowed turf of Murrayfield and set up two tries in a famous win over Scotland.

"I was still buzzing after my debut but I think it really set in after the England game...I think that's when I knew I'm here at the international level."

Halaholo is now a Six Nations champion - a position he would not be in if not for his perserverence.

"You'll always find a way, you've gotta take your chances.

"You know I moved down to Southland on my own. I slept on a couch in a house for that first season."

He was also glad he did not burn any bridges, given it was the same coach who shut the door on him in Auckland who opened another eight years later.