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Halaholo ready to rock after cruel double blow

Uilise Halaholo warms up for Wales' autumn finale with Australia

Halaholo ready to rock after cruel double blow

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Uilisi Halaholo was dealt a double blow on the eve of Wales’ autumn opener with New Zealand at the end of October.

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The Cardiff centre unfortunately tested positive for Covid-19 in the build-up to what would have been his first Test against the country of his birth.

He was subsequently ruled out of facing the All Blacks and forced into isolation.

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If that wasn’t already cruel enough, Halaholo was hit by more seismic news on the same day he found out he had contracted coronavirus. He was told his aunty, Ivoni Vaea, had passed away.

Halaholo admits it all knocked him for six.

“It was tough,” said the 31-year-old. “I found out both that morning. I woke up, got the news about my aunty, and then went in to do my Covid test which was bad news as well.

“It was a bit of a double hit. There were a lot of emotions and things going through my head.

“Ivoni was my auntie. She was a pre-school teacher and pretty much helped my parents out when they needed to work and there was no-one to look after us as kids.

“She would look after us when we were younger. Even during the high school days when I didn’t feel like going to school, I’d be hanging out in her garage.

“She wouldn’t know, but I’d be hanging out at her house. It was just a home away from home – somewhere safe where I knew I could just chill out and get away from the world.

“I will be thinking about Ivoni in today’s game. Usually, I have my wrist band strapped up with ‘Halaholo’ on it, but I will have her name on it against Australia.”

Uilisi Halaholo with his late aunty Ivoni Vaea. Credit: Instagram / Uilisi Halaholo

Halaholo has had to work extremely hard to get back to the level he was at prior to his coronavirus scare.

The Cardiff centre was in electric form with his explosive ball carrying and dangerous footwork earning him a place in the Wales squad. Halaholo had been targeting a starting spot against the land of his birth New Zealand, but it wasn’t to be with Covid robbing him of what would have been a special opportunity.

And he has revealed just how much Covid knocked him back. The virus also ruled him out of Wales’ narrow loss to world champions South Africa.

I will be thinking about Ivoni in today’s game. Usually, I have my wrist band strapped up with ‘Halaholo’ on it, but I will have her name on it against Australia

“For the first four or five days I was quite sick,” he said.

“I had body aches and the main thing was I was really short of breath and really struggling to breathe. As soon as I got better, I had lateral flow tests at home and I was testing every day.

“Once I tested positive a couple of days in a row, I tried to get up and go on the bike. The breathing was still a bit heavy and then when my 10 days were up, I came in and did a couple of sessions.

“They noticed my breathing was still a bit heavy hence why they probably didn’t originally plan to involve me in the Fiji game. I didn’t come back until the Wednesday of the Fiji week when I started to feel close to 100 per cent. It did take a couple of sessions to get back to normal. I’ve had a good week of training and I’m feeling a lot better. It was a slow process.

“I was really disappointed to miss the New Zealand game to be honest. It took me back to when I found out I’d done my knee just before my call up to Wales for the Barbarians game a couple of years ago. It was that type of feeling. I was really gutted and disappointed.

“It was just something I was looking forward to since the fixture came out and it was something that I’d been working hard towards.”

Halaholo warms up for today’s game with Australia

Halaholo has made a habit of late call-ups since making his Test debut as a last-minute selection against Scotland in the 2021 Six Nations.

Lightning struck twice last weekend when Halaholo was drafted into the squad to face Fiji at the very last minute after Josh Adams was withdrawn as a precaution after suffering a calf strain in the warm-up.

Halaholo made a massive impact with the centre tearing through the Fijian defence while also giving the Welsh midfield the physical edge they missed earlier on in the game.

“It was awesome to get on the field,” he said.

“In a way, I love it when it’s unexpected. Even for my Wales debut against Scotland I just got called up on the Thursday and ended up coming off the bench on the Saturday.

“The day before the Fiji game I had done a game replacement session with the non-playing squad which was a pretty tough session so it was almost like I’d already played a game.

“I was warming up with boys. At the end of it I was walking off the field and I spoke to Paul Stridgeon and I said, ‘Well that’s me done for the week.’

“I went back into the changing rooms. I’d already got my shirt and my socks off and then Martyn Williams said to me ‘Wow, mate. Put your socks back on you might be playing.’ I just chucked my clothes back on and then they made the call with Josh. I was then in there which was fine.”

Wales have endured a frustrating autumn to date with defeats against both New Zealand and South Africa before a hard-fought victory over an impressive Fiji side.

Halaholo had to watch the first two matches from afar, but he has every faith Wales can end their autumn campaign with a victory against a wounded Australian side today.

Nick Tompkins and Uilisi Halaholo (right) in action against Fiji. They start as Wales centres against Australia

“I think we’ve taken a lot of learnings from the last few games,” he said.

“There have been some big Test matches and the boys are really looking forward to finishing the campaign on a high. Australia have taken two losses as well so we know they’ll be coming for us, but the boys have been playing well and we just want to put in a great performance together.

“We need to tie it all together, improve on all the mistakes from the last three games, and try to put a complete performance together.

“I can play a direct power game if needs be and then I can play the footwork and avoiding contact type of game. It just depends on what I need to do. For me, it’s all about playing mind games.

“I learnt watching Jonah Lomu when I was growing up. He could run around you or he could run through you. The key is to vary it up and find a good balance to keep defences guessing.

“I don’t mind if I run 10 decoy lines and I don’t get the ball as long as we are putting boys into space and scoring or breaking the line. Whatever my job is, I’ll do that.”

We need to tie it all together, improve on all the mistakes from the last three games, and try to put a complete performance together

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