Connacht rising star Miah Nikora admits he is gunning for childhood hero Jonny Wilkinson – with the scalp of All Blacks sensation Dan Carter already nailed down on his CV.
Fly-half Nikora shot to fame last month with Connacht’s winning drop goal in the 23-20 triumph over Bourgoin to seal the Irish province’s passage into a mouth-watering Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final encounter with Wilkinson’s Toulon.
But the relatively unknown New Zealand half-back has a previous record of upsetting the form book after he was part of the Wellington side to upstage Carter’s star-studded Canterbury 36-23 in the 2006 Air New Zealand Cup quarter-finals.
And now the Kiwi says he has England star Wilkinson firmly in his sights as he bids for a prized personal double in Friday’s clash at the Sportsground in Galway.
24, said: "It does not get any better for a fly-half than to face Jonny Wilkinson. It will be a dream come true,” said Nikora, who will be hoping to make another match-winning impact after being named among the replacements for this evening’s tie.
"I can remember when Jonny kicked the drop goal to help England win the 2003 World Cup.
"I was in my last year at Gisborne Boys High School and watched the game with friends. I always said I wanted to play against Jonny and now that may come true. It’s great.
"He has the best all-round kicking game and can put the ball in the corners or kick goals. But I still rate Dan Carter as the number one fly-half in the world as he has a better running game.
"I’ve only played against Dan once and that was for Wellington against Canterbury. Like against Bourgoin, I came on in the second half but it was great to go up against Dan – and beat him.
"That kick against Bourgoin was the highlight of my career with Connacht but I hope to go one better and pick up a win against Jonny and Toulon."
Nikora warmed up for Wilkinson and co by figuring in the final quarter of the disappointing 58-10 hammering by the Scarlets last Sunday.
But the 24-year-oldinsists a much-changed Connacht side will bounce back from that crushing defeat in emphatic style against a side that currently sit second in the French Top 14.
"There’s a lot of character within the squad and we showed that after losing to Munster and fronting up 72 hours later to beat Leinster,” added Nikora.
"We know we can bounce back and we are up for the challenge.
"It’s a big game. Toulon have a lot of big names but we have home advantage.
"The capacity of the Sportsground has been extended to 8,000 so we will have a bumper crowd supporting us."
Connacht v Toulon, Friday, April 30, kick-off 7.45pm
Connacht: G Duffy, T Nathan, N Ta’auso, A Wynne, F Carr, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon [capt], J O’Connor, G Naoupu
Replacements: A Flavin, R Loughney, B Upton, M McComish, C O’Loughlin, M Nikora, B Tuohy, R Morris
Toulon: L Rooney, G Lovobalavu, M Kefu, T May, C Marienval, J Wilkinson, M Henjak [capt], S Taumoepeau, P Fitzgerald, T Leaaetoa, J Suta, E Lozada, J van Niekerk, T Sourice, J Fernandez Lobbe
Replacements: S Bruno, B Basteres, T Ryan, K Chesney, O Missoup, J Sinzelle, P Mignoni, S Williams