Ex-goalie Frizell set for All Blacks debut

Daniel Gilhooly
Three Super Rugby games were enough to interest All Backs coach Steve Hansen in Shannon Frizell (L)

He's the former Tonga soccer goalkeeper with the brother who stars in the NRL and whose All Blacks debut is like a bolt from the blue.

Meet Shannon Frizell, the painfully-shy blindside flanker who is following older brother Tyson's advice this week to the letter as he prepares to face France in the third rugby Test in Dunedin.

"He said just play, don't worry about the outside stuff."

The quietly-spoken 24-year-old was giving little away to media on Thursday as he prepared for a fixture he would never have foreseen during his sporting days at Apifo'ou College in Nuku'alofa.

Frizell's height made him an ideal goalkeeper until his final year, when he chose to give rugby a go. He can't even remember why.

A rugby development contract lured him to New Zealand in 2015, where he played alongside new Wallabies signing Pete Samu for Tasman and first caught the attention of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Just three Super Rugby starts with the Highlanders this year were sufficient for an All Blacks promotion.

Hansen was seduced by the raw athleticism of a player who missed all the usual Kiwi rugby pathways.

In fact, Frizell's life path differed from the norm when he was adopted in Tonga as a baby under a customary arrangement.

It meant he grew up in a different country from his two brothers, who lived with their birth parents in Sydney.

Immigration laws meant Shannon's adopted family couldn't shift to Australia as they had hoped.

Shannon remained close to his brother and says he'll probably tune in when Tyson's NSW Blues try to clinch the State of Origin series in Sydney on Sunday.

However, he isn't a devout follower of his brother's NRL career, explaining that rugby league had never appealed.

Asked if he'd rather be watching World Cup soccer matches this month, Shannon was adamant.

"Yeah, more than league," he said.