Ma'a Nonu

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Ma'a Allan Nonu MNZM (/ˈmɑːʔɑː ˈnɒn/; born 21 May 1982) is a professional rugby union player from New Zealand who currently plays for San Diego Legion.[4][5] He plays in the inside centre, but can also cover outside centre and wing. He was a key member of 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup winning teams, becoming one of only twenty dual Rugby Union World Cup winners.

Ma'a Nonu
Ma'a Nonu MNZM (cropped).jpg
Nonu in 2019
Birth nameMa'a Allan Nonu
Date of birth (1982-05-21) 21 May 1982 (age 37)
Place of birthWellington, New Zealand
Height1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)[1]
Weight108 kg (238 lb)[2]
SchoolRongotai College
Rugby union career
Position(s) Centre, Wing
Current team San Diego Legion
All Black No. 1031
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Oriental Rongotai[3] ()
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
Ricoh Black Rams
San Diego Legion
Correct as of 01 July 2019
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
New Zealand
Junior All Blacks
Barbarian F.C.
Correct as of 31 October 2015
National sevens team(s)
Years Team Comps
2002–2004 New Zealand 2


Early careerEdit

Nonu attended Strathmore Park Primary School in Wellington, then attended Rongotai College in Wellington. At club level, he represented Oriental Rongotai in the Wellington competition.[6] He played for the Wellington Secondary Schools team in 1999–2000, and the Wellington Under 19s team in 2001.[citation needed] He also played rugby league as a youngster.[citation needed]

Professional career and the All BlacksEdit

He made his provincial debut for Wellington in the 2002 NPC and debuted for the Hurricanes in the 2003 Super 12. He played for the New Zealand Sevens in 2004. On the back of some outstanding Super 12 form, Nonu made his Test debut for the All Blacks on 14 June 2003, starting at centre in a 15-13 loss to England.

Nonu missed selection for the 2003 Tri Nations, with the selectors preferring Umaga, Aaron Mauger and Daniel Carter in the midfield. He was selected for the All Blacks' 2003 World Cup squad and played in pool matches against Canada, Italy and Tonga. He scored his first Test try against Canada and was generally impressive on attack and easily breaking the line and his big stature was intimidating to the opposition. However, question marks over his defensive game and inexperience meant he was not selected for the knockout stage of the tournament despite an injury to Umaga.

Nonu missed selection for the Tri Nations in 2004 after a form slump in the Super 12. He forced his way back into contention playing for Wellington in the 2004 NPC, and played as a substitute in all four matches on the All Blacks' undefeated end of year tour to Europe.

Nonu played on the wing for much of the 2005 Super 12, with Conrad Smith preferred as Umaga's midfield partner. Standout performances included a hat trick against 2004 Super 12 champions the Brumbies. Nonu played at second five-eighth for the Possibles in the 2005 All Blacks trial, scoring two tries and setting up two more to inspire the Possibles to an upset win over the Probables. He played in the second Test against the 2005 British and Irish Lions as a substitute, replacing Sitiveni Sivivatu on the wing. He again missed selection for the 2005 Tri Nations.

Wellington Lions captain Umaga was rested during the 2005 NPC, and in his absence Nonu was promoted to the captaincy of the team. During the NPC, he established himself as one of New Zealand's most dangerous midfield runners. He was selected for the 2005 All Blacks Grand Slam tour, playing Tests as a substitute against Wales and Scotland, and earning his third Test start against Ireland. He was cited for an alleged spear tackle against Brian O'Driscoll during the Test against Ireland, but was later cleared of the charge.

In 2006 Nonu was ruled out of the Tri Nations squad due to injury, Mils Muliaina being chosen to take his place. He damaged the base of his left thumb playing club rugby in Wellington, which required him to have surgery.[7] He was, however, included in the end of year tour with the All Blacks.

Due to his absence from the All Blacks Tri Nations squad, Nonu was able to play every game with the Wellington Lions in the Air New Zealand Cup, which greatly helped them. Nonu missed out on selection for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, with the selectors preferring Aaron Mauger, Luke McAlister, Conrad Smith and Isaia Toeava in the centres.

The game against Argentina on 28 September 2013 marked a record fiftieth international game in combination with Conrad Smith.

Rugby leagueEdit

In December 2006, Nonu expressed a desire to switch codes to rugby league and play in the National Rugby League (NRL) after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.[8] A move overseas was seen as more likely as he was not named in Graham Henry's 2007 squad but was instead dropped to the Junior All Blacks.[9]

In 2008, Nonu returned to the All Blacks, starting in the majority of tests throughout the year, and regarded to be the All Blacks first choice inside centre.[10]

2011 Tri-Nations & Rugby World CupEdit

Nonu played his first international of 2011 in a friendly against Fiji.[citation needed]

He played in New Zealand's first Tri-Nations game against South Africa. The All Blacks ended up winning 40-7. He then went on to play New Zealand's next game in the Tri-Nations against Australia where he scored the opening try. He played the final game of the tournament against Australia and scored his 21st international try.[citation needed]

Nonu was selected for the All Blacks 2011 Rugby World Cup. He scored the final try the All Blacks opening match. On 23 October 2011, he played in the final against France, which the All Blacks won by 8-7 to become world champions.

Ricoh Black RamsEdit

Following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Nonu joined the Ricoh Black Rams, in Japan, on a short-term 'sabbatical'.[citation needed] In 12 games for the Rams, he scored six tries and received one yellow card.[11]


On 1 July 2011, Nonu announced he had signed a two-year contract with the Blues.[12] This was after the Hurricanes announced he would not be resigned following the 2011 Super Rugby season.[13]

Nonu made his debut for the Blues in round three of the 2012 Super Rugby season.[citation needed] 2012 also marked a 'below-par'[citation needed] season for Nonu in terms of form and his struggle to return to the No. 12 jersey for the All Blacks. Nonu's performances following his return from his Black Rams sabbatical were met with poor response[citation needed] and subsequently led to his exclusion from the match-day 22 for the France test series. Nonu's place was filled by Sonny Bill Williams, whose form and consistency kept Nonu out of the 12 jersey until Week 3 of the 2012 Rugby Championship. Due to injury to former Hurricanes teammate Conrad Smith,[citation needed] Nonu returned to the All Blacks starting lineup in the first week of the inaugural Rugby Championship at 13, centre, with Sonny Bill at 12, forming what was considered the most 'destructive' centre pairing in world rugby.[citation needed]

Nonu returned to the All Blacks number 12 jersey. Following Williams' departure to Japan and then the NRL, Nonu played all but one of the remaining tests as second five-eighth, except against Scotland where he came off the bench.[citation needed]


After one season in Auckland, Nonu moved to Dunedin,[14][15] signing a one-year deal with the Highlanders for the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Blues returnEdit

After struggling to find a Super Rugby team for 2014, (where all 5 New Zealand franchises initially stated they weren't interested in signing him),[16] Nonu eventually turned down a lucrative offer to play for French Top 14 side Clermont, to return to the Blues for another season. In doing so, he made himself available to continue playing for the All Blacks throughout 2014 and ultimately gain selection for the Rugby World Cup the following year in England.

Hurricanes returnEdit

Nonu returned to the Hurricanes for the 2015 Super Rugby season, the team he left in 2011.[17] It was speculated that the departure of former Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett to the Cardiff Blues paved the way for his return.


On 20 December 2014, it was announced Nonu would be joining Top 14 side Toulon after the 2015 Rugby World Cup on a two-year deal.[18]

2015 World CupEdit

Nonu was selected as the starting inside centre for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he played in nearly every pool game. Nonu played every knockout match and scored a 50m solo try to help the All Blacks beat Australia 34-17 in the final.

In the 2016 New Year Honours, Nonu was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rugby.[19]

Second Blues ReturnEdit

Nonu has signed on with the Blues for the 2019 Super Rugby season.[20]

San Diego LegionEdit

Major League Rugby announced in October 2019 that Nonu would play for the San Diego Legion in the 2020 season.[21]

Playing styleEdit

Nonu is well known for his explosiveness and powerful attacking runs and regularly breaks the defensive line at will, however is also known for his dangerous shoulder charge tackles, which have often seen him sent off during games.[22] 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Graham Henry has described him as "probably the best linebreaker in this game in this country."[23]

Nonu has been noted to possess a similar attacking skillset to former All Black centre Tana Umaga. Like Umaga, he is an exceptional crash ball runner who excels at breaking the line and creating space for outside backs. In 2005, Henry described Nonu as "young Tana,"[24] underlining the impression that he was being groomed as a potential successor to Umaga. This comparison has been confirmed in recent times by Wayne Smith.[25]

Personal lifeEdit

Nonu has been known for his blonde-streaked dreadlocks and former penchant for wearing eyeliner on the field.[26]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ James, Steve (22 September 2014). "New Zealand owe a debt to Samoa that can only be repaid with a full touring party for long overdue first Test visit". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  5. ^ Cummiskey, Gavin (30 October 2015). "No one does it better than New Zealand's Ma'a Nonu". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  6. ^ Robson, Toby (6 July 2014). "Ma'a Nonu set for return to the Hurricanes". Rugby Heaven. Fairfax. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Worse break for Nonu" Archived 14 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine Rugbyheaven website, 3 July 2006, retrieved 12 October 2006.
  8. ^ Phelps, James. "Nonu eyes NRL". Daily Telegraph. News. Retrieved 18 December 2006.
  9. ^ [1] Archived 23 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Ma'a Nonu enjoying being No 1 at last". Stuff Sport. Fairfax. 14 November 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Nonu: Japanese not helping themselves". Rugby News. Media Titles. 1 March 2012. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Nonu joins the Blues" (Press release). The Blues. 1 July 2011. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Ma'a Nonu joins Auckland Blues". Yahoo. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Blues try to sweet-talk Nonu into staying as big opportunities knock". Age. Fairfax. 16 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  15. ^ "Kirwan 'disappointed' in Ma'a Nonu shifting south". Television New Zealand. 16 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  16. ^ "All Blacks' Ma'a Nonu signs deal with the Blues". 22 October 2013.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Toulon sign Nonu and Nalaga". ESPN Scrum. 20 December 2014.
  19. ^ "New Year honours list 2016". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Ma'a Nonu: All Black great returns to New Zealand with Blues". BBC. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ TVNZ
  24. ^ "Great chance for "young Tana"". Television New Zealand. 15 September 2005. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  25. ^ "Rugby Union News, Live Rugby Scores, Results & Fixtures". Planet Rugby. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  26. ^ BBC

External linksEdit