Of all the teams to be fronting for at the rugby league World Cup, Api Pewhairangi probably didn't think Ireland was at the top of the list.
The Palmerston North lad has been named in the Ireland squad for the World Cup which starts next weekend and qualifies through his grandmother who was born in Ireland.
His grandmother Margaret-May Dignam was born and raised in Ireland but came to New Zealand with the army as part of the Women's Royal Army Corps and settled here.
Api's father Tu sent some footage of Api playing to the Irish rugby league and, after about two months, they got back to him to confirm his spot.
"Otherwise they wouldn't have known with a name like Pewhairangi," Tu said, adding it was unique to have a Maori boy playing for Ireland.
"He's pretty animated at the moment. But a bit reluctant. He's right across the other side of the world, he's virtually going on his own.
"He's got three other guys from Australia who play in other clubs but he's the only one from his own club."
Tu and mother Irene don't have tickets to go to the games but were keen to try to get to the UK for the tournament.
His grandmother was born in Lucan, Dublin, so Api, who plays in the NRL for the Parramatta Eels, made himself available because of his Irish heritage.
"It was a bit of a surprise," he told the Eels website.
"I got an email from the coach and team manager saying that they're really interested and I said I was really keen to play and represent my grandmother's country."
He has never been there before and expected some friendly banter about playing for Ireland.
"I know I'm going to cop it a bit but I am proud to represent Ireland, my grandmother and all my family," he said.
Ireland play Fiji on October 28, England on November 2 and Australia on November 9, which could make for a tough tournament for the 21-year-old but he is keen to play against the world's top players.
Pewhairangi has previously represented the junior Kiwis.
He isn't the only Manawatu product playing in the World Cup though, with former Dannevirke Tiger five-eighth Rangi Chase in the England squad.
Former Levin and Palmerston North prop James Tamou will play for Australia.
The Ireland squad is made up of players from the English Super League and Ireland Championship, but there are three others who play in the NRL: James Hasson (Manly Sea Eagles), Rory Kostjayn (North Queensland Cowboys) and Brett White (Canberra Raiders).
- © Fairfax NZ News