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The duo received mixed reviews for their performances at Twickenham over the autumn but Nonu – who played opposite former Kiwi rugby league star Hape and observed Banahan’s international debut as a centre against Samoa – was left impressed by the combination of skill and power.
And Nonu, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s finest centres, was left in no doubt the pair have all the attributes to succeed not only at international level but also to make their mark in the Super 15.
He said: “There is no doubt in my mind that Hape could definitely come and make his mark in the Super 15 if he decided to come down.
“I think the same goes for Matt Banahan as the pair of them are big tall guys that possess a lot of power and speed.
“Shontayne was very tough to play against, and alongside (Mike) Tindall they were good opposition.
“It was hard playing against them and Sonny (Bill Williams) and I had a tough game.
“They were very physical and quite similar to the partnership of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy at Ireland who are both great players.
“It was quite obvious that Hape was from a league background as he still has some of those mannerisms but he was brilliant against the Samoans and he is definitely coming on well.
“I think if he keeps improving the way he is then he will turn out to be a very important player for England – he is already showing great maturity in such a short time and will only get better.
“You need that if you are to control the centre and I think Hape has all that and more.”
While Hape’s position at inside centre seems secure after six consecutive starts in the No.12 shirt, Banahan’s long-term position in the England set-up is less certain.
At 6ft 7in and 18stone with a decent turn of pace, the 23-year-old naturally has the attributes to be a winger – where he had played his previous five Tests.
But from what Nonu has seen England should take the centre ground if they want to get the best of the big man.
“Matt is a good player and he impressed me against a physical Samoa side,” added Nonu – who has over 50 caps for the All Blacks.
“He is a very big guy and every time I have seen him I’ve been impressed – but I think he is more suited to outside centre as he can make more of an impact there.
“He can get into the game more and dictate play. He seems to be able to distribute the ball well and in my opinion those are skills wasted on the wing.”
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