Former Queensland State of Origin forward Ben Te’o has completed a remarkable transition to rugby union by being named in the British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand.
Te’o, who was part of the South Sydney team that won the 2014 NRL premiership, made his rugby union Test debut for England against South Africa last November, having qualified for his adopted country via his English-born mother.
His impressive performances during the recent Six Nations tournament, in which he played all five of England’s Tests under Australian-born coach Eddie Jones, have earned him a place in Warren Gatland’s 41-man squad against the land of his birth.
The selection caps off a circuitous career for the 30-year-old Te’o, who moved to the Gold Coast from Auckland as a teenager after playing for the Junior Kiwis in rugby league.
He made his NRL debut for the Wests Tigers in 2007 and was capped by Samoa 12 months later before returning to south-east Queensland with the Brisbane Broncos.
His move to the Broncos led to selection for Queensland in Game Three of the 2012 Origin campaign and he came off the bench five more times for Mal Meninga’s side in the next two series.
Te’o enjoyed a successful two-year stint with South Sydney in 2013 and 2014, where he helped the Rabbitohs end their long wait for a 21st premiership before announcing a move to rugby union with Irish side Leinster.
He then joined England club Worcester last year.
Te’o exited the Rabbitohs for the 15-man game alongside Sam Burgess, who joined Bath in a high-profile move.
His former housemate Burgess struggled and returned to Redfern after just a year, having been made a scapegoat for England’s disastrous World Cup campaign on home soil.
But Te’o has flourished to earn eight Test caps for England and become the first ever Worcester player to be selected for the Lions.
He is one of 16 England internationals named in the Lions squad, which will be captained by Welsh back rower Sam Warburton.
The Lions toured Australia four years ago, winning the three-Test series 2-1, while their most recent trip to New Zealand was in 2005 when they were whitewashed 3-0 by the All Blacks.