Despite being something of a revelation in last year’s tournament, numerous injuries have hampered Fifita’s progress this year, with the utility forward having fallen down the pecking order behind lock combination Michael Fatialofa and Sam Lousi at the Hurricanes.
This has meant the 26-year-old has had to be content with brief cameo appearances off the bench, which has left him short of match fitness.
“This has probably been the hardest year for me playing Super, because I had a few injuries and then I come back and only play for like 30 minutes off the bench or 25,” he told Stuff.
“You’re still unfit because you’re coming back from injury and you need to play 80 minutes every week to get fit and get up to the speed of the game.”
The final disappointment for Fifita in an altogether frustrating season came when he was a casualty of the trimming down of the training squad to the final 33-man group for the tournament.
According to the forward, he was told by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that he was not selected because he had been used primarily as a lock by the Hurricanes this season and therefore he would not use Fifita as a blindside flank for the All Blacks.
Fifita was satisfied with this explanation at the time, but was left puzzled when in a later interview, Hansen said he had picked Hemopo as a back-up six and not a lock, despite Hemopo having played all season at lock for the Highlanders.
“He told me that, but when I saw he got interviewed and he said Hemopo was to cover six, not lock, I kind of feel he’s not telling me the truth,” he said.
“But that’s life.”