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Strong form reaps rewards

James Pakoti on the attack for Wairarapa-Bush. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
[email protected]

James Pakoti’s impressive form for Martinborough and Wairarapa-Bush has not gone unnoticed.

The dynamic hooker has been named to take part in a Cook Islands Rugby World Cup qualifying camp in Rarotonga later this month.

A trial match will take place on June 23, and a 26-man squad will then be selected for the first test against Hong Kong, to be held at the National Stadium in Rarotonga on June 30.

A week later they will play the return match in Hong Kong, with the winner progressing to the four-team repechage tournament later in the year which will determine the final qualifier for next year’s world cup.

Pakoti said he was “pretty damn happy” to be selected for the trial.

“It’s definitely been a goal of mine to try and better myself as a rugby player.

“It’s anybody’s dream to try and make their side in their code.”

Pakoti was born in Australia, but grew up in the Cook Islands before moving to New Zealand to attend Rotorua Boys’ High School.

He has represented the Cook Islands at under-19 and under-20 level, and is ready to make the step up once again.

“To go to a world cup and not play is something on the bucket list for most people in New Zealand, but to actually get the chance to have a go and try and crack it is something else.

“I’ve just been slowly chipping away and trying to tick the boxes for the coaches.”

One of those coaches is former Cook Islands player Stan Wright, who is coaching the Wairarapa College First XV.

Pakoti has been in strong form for his Martinborough club this season and said they had played a crucial part in his rugby development.

“These guys gave me a chance to play premier rugby and gave me a chance with Wairarapa-Bush.

“They’re been trying to develop me and get me further, and it’s working out pretty well so far.”

Pakoti said there were a few names in the trial squad he was not familiar with, but he knew most of the playing group already.

“There’s a few new names that I hadn’t seen before but a few boys that I’ve played with over the years.

“We’ve all been around the same competitions over the years and it shouldn’t take too much to gel together.”

If the Cook Islands were to make it through the qualification process and gain entry to the world cup, their prize would be a spot in Pool B alongside the All Blacks.

Playing against New Zealand would be a dream come true for Pakoti, but he was focused on taking it one step at a time.

“The ultimate goal is to make the world cup and gel with other players from around the world to do it.

“But at the moment, it’s one step at a time and try and get one task done before the other.”

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