Born: 30 August, 1973 – Auckland
Test record: 0 Tests
Tours: 2005 Tri Nations

A Samoa representative at two World Cups and an Auckland Warriors original, Willie Poching gained Kiwi status in 2005 after being called in for a midweek clash with England A during the Tri Nations.

Poching represented the Junior Kiwis in 1991-92 – captaining the side to a historic win over the Junior Kangaroos in the latter year – and turned out for Northcote, Marist and Mount Albert in the Auckland Rugby League, while also representing Auckland.

The promising back-rower spent 1994 on a junior contract with Brisbane Broncos and toured New Zealand with Western Samoa. Signed for the Warriors’ 1995 entry to the premiership, Poching played just two first-grade games for the club before embarking on moderately more successful one-season stints with North Queensland (16 games), Hunter Mariners (13 games) and St George (four games).

Poching started at hooker in both matches of Samoa’s historic 1995 World Cup campaign and featured at lock in all four fixtures for the Pacific nation at the 2000 tournament.

He found a niche in Super League, playing over 200 games for Wakefield Trinity and Leeds from 1999-2006, and winning a Grand Final in 2004 and World Club Challenge and Challenge Cup Final in 2005 with the Rhinos.

Poching became Kiwi #724 when he played in New Zealand’s 30-22 win over England A in late-2005, bolstering the Tri Nations touring squad without coming into contention for the Test side.

Moving into coaching, Poching was at the helm of the Leeds academy and led Samoa in 2009. He was an assistant to Tony Smith during a successful period for Warrington Wolves, and had subsequent assistant stints at Salford and Hull KR before taking over as head coach of the latter in 2021.