Born: 8 April, 1987 – Hamilton
Test record: 13 Tests (2007-08, 2010-11) – 0 points
Tours: 2007 tour of Great Britain and France, 2008 World Cup
Rugged front-rower Sam Rapira received a Kiwis call-up early in his 10-season tenure with the Warriors, with a World Cup triumph the highlight of 13 Tests for New Zealand.
Hamilton-born Rapira was a product of Hamilton Boys’ High and the Hukanui club. He played for Waicoa Bay Stallions in the Bartercard Cup, while he represented Junior Kiwis in 2004 and ’05, and New Zealand Residents in the latter season.
He was still only 19 when he made his NRL debut for the Warriors in 2006, making 10 rookie-season appearances for the Ivan Cleary-coached team, and turned out for New Zealand A in a big win over an Australian Invitational line-up containing six future Kangaroos Test players in Melbourne.
Rapira was just 15 games into his NRL career when he was named on the bench in New Zealand’s 2007 Anzac Test side, a match Australia won 30-6 at Suncorp Stadium. The tyro subsequently played all five Tests of the Kiwis’ post-season schedule – the defeat to the Kangaroos in Wellington, all three matches of the 3-0 series loss to Great Britain and the one-off win over France.
After featuring in a second straight finals campaign with the Warriors, Rapira came off the bench in four of New Zealand’s five 2008 World Cup matches, including the epic 34-20 boilover against Australia in the Brisbane-hosted final.
Rapira missed the Kiwis’ 2009 schedule but was recalled to start at prop in the 2010 Anzac Test, before pulling out of Four Nations contention due to family reasons. He played his final match for New Zealand in the 2011 Anzac Test and played a key role in the Warriors’ unforgettable charge to the NRL grand final that year.
The high-regarded bookend’s 2012 campaign was ruined by injury, but he was a mainstay over the ensuing two seasons to bring up 150 first-grade games for the club. Falling out of favour at the Auckland-based club in 2015, Rapira spent 2016-17 at Huddersfield Giants and hung up the boots after suffering a hand injury while playing for Toulouse in 2018.