The 22-year-old, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce at Victoria University in Wellington, took a break from his studies to represent the nation in next week’s Oceania Cup/Rugby World Cup Qualifier against Tahiti.
And he is willing to put his body on the line to help Cook Islands progress to the next stage of the qualifiers for the 2019 RWC in Japan.
The Wellington-based halfback is one of the seven New Zealand-based players in the 26-member squad released last week.
“I grew up here. I was born and raised here. My grandmother is Maria Henderson,” Te-Ara said.
“I left Rarotonga when I was 10 and went to New Zealand where I worked on my rugby. When I heard about the opportunity to come and play for my country, I felt very privileged.
“I had to withdraw out of university because it clashed (with rugby). I have to go back to that but I thought this was more important because I wanted to do my country proud.”
Te-Ara played for the Oriental Rongotai club which is known for producing world class players such as Ma’a Nonu, Ardie and Julian Savea.
He played in the premiers and the senior first grades in the half back and first five eighth positions.
Te-Ara arrived in Rarotonga earlier this month and played a couple of matches for the Takuvaine Reds team in the Rarotonga Club XVs competition to acclimatise to the conditions here.
“I really wanted to come down here early just to play some local games and bond with the Cook Islands boys so I came two weeks earlier than the rest of the New Zealand players,” he said.
“The rugby here is lot different but I have learnt a lot about island rugby and had a really good experience. I just want to improve and help the country move forward (in rugby).”
Te-Ara, who received praise for his performance in the domestic competition, is looking forward to his dream debut in front of his family and friends at the BCI Stadium on Friday.
He is calling on Cook Islanders to turn up in numbers and help them achieve their goal of making it through to the next stage of the RWC qualifiers.
“I really want the Cook Islands community to get around us. I want us to be united, with the New Zealand players and the local players to be on the same level – not to see New Zealand boys as outsiders and for New Zealand players, not to see the local boys as underdogs just because they haven’t had the privilege to learn rugby in New Zealand,” Te-Ara said.
“I just really hope the whole country comes together as one for this event.”
The Cook Islands versus Tahiti match will kick off at 3pm. Tickets are selling at $5 for adults and $2 for children under-16.