Past Student Achievement

Christian Lio-Willie

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Otago flanker Christian Lio-Willie is a man of many talents with a strong guiding principle in life: “Listen to mum.”

The rampaging 23-year-old Aucklander has just completed his last exam of a five-year dental degree at the University of Otago, an educational pathway insisted upon by mother Eseta, and will now go full noise at a rugby career as a nod to father Frank.

“It was for mum, really, because out of school [I] had opportunities to go play footy elsewhere,” Lio-Willie told Stuff. “But mum and dad just made sure I had to lock away a degree just before I did anything that I wanted to do.

“She’s happy now, so now I can make dad happy with the rugby.”

Frank would be proud. Lio-Willie has exploded over the past few weeks as Otago's big-ball carrying No 8, filling the gap after Dylan Nel left for Japan.

He will be crucial for Otago as they travel to Palmerston North to take on ManawatÅ« on Friday in the first of the weekend’s four NPC semifinals, with the side also boosted by the availability of No 6 Sam Fischli, whose red card against Waikato last week has been overturned.

Lio-Willie’s performances have caught the eye, and some of his work with ball in hand has even sparked comparisons with a certain All Blacks No 8 also of Samoan heritage.

“Oh man, I’m definitely inspired by the likes of Ardie [Savea] and the way he carries,” said Lio-Willie said, putting Savea alongside his two other All Blacks idols who wore the No 6 or No jerseys. ”And obviously coming from Auckland they have a big ‘run it straight’ culture there.

“Those guys were massive when I was growing up. Waking up to watch Jerome Kaino and Jerry Collins and the likes, and especially how Ardie Savea is off the field and the values he brings to the game. It’s truly inspiring for me as a young PI [Pacific Islands] boy.”

The Savea comparison is not without merit. Like Savea, Lio-Willie said his parents also moved to New Zealand from Samoa in search of opportunities for their kids.

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