Nineteen year-old Orene Ai’i was a star performer for the New Zealand Sevens team when he was called into the Hurricanes in 1999 as a replacement, having scored over 300 points in seven Sevens tournaments. He was subsequently IRB World Sevens Player of the Year in 2005.
Ai’i’s two appearances for the Hurricanes were as substitute at first five-eighth against the Chiefs and the Highlanders, before he went on to dazzle the fifteen a side game in the NPC later that year. In his first full game for Auckland he scored a hat trick against Otago. Small in size, but with speed and vision in abundance, Ai’i was used variously at first five-eighth, fullback and on the wing for the Blues and Auckland between 2000-2005.
He continued to star in the New Zealand sevens for a number of years, before transferring to Japan in 2006, and subsequently to Toulon in France where he was joined by former Hurricanes teammate Tana Umaga in 2007.
Samoan born, Ai’i also played for New Zealand U19 in 1995, New Zealand Secondary Schools in 1997, New Zealand U19 in 1997 and 1998 and the New Zealand Colts 1998-1999. In 1998 he represented Samoa at the Commonwealth games in Kuala Lumpur.
In 2008 and 2009 Al’I was playing fullback for Toulon in France, alongside former teammates Jerry Collins and Tana Umaga and later for Toyota Verblitz in Japan.
In 2012 he was back playing in New Zealand, in Northland. In July 2012 he was called up to the Blues as an injury replacement for the tail-end of the season.
In 2013 he was playing Premier club rugby in Auckland for College Rifles.