Moana Pasifika begin their 2023 Super Rugby Live Pacific Campaign on Saturday 25th February against the Fijian Drua in a match that has been dubbed the Battle of the Pacific.
Aaron Mauger is excited about the prospect of seeing the best of the Pacific on the field. Moana Pasifika has named a squad with 38 of their 39 players experiencing Super Rugby during their inaugural year in the competition.
The squad boasts 26 gamers with worldwide rugby experience for Pacific Island powerhouses Manu Samoa and ‘Ikale Tahi. The addition of Wallaby veterans Sekope Kepu and Christian Leali’ifano enhance the worldwide participant tally to 28.
Headlining the five new signings in the 2023 squad is Samoa-primarily based loose forward, Miracle Fai’ilagi. The 23-year old became identified by way of Head Coach Aaron Mauger and Forwards Coach Leota Filo Tiatia at the World Rugby Pacific Combine held in Suva, Fiji.
The integrate serves as a pathway to representing the Pacific Island countrywide groups and gives exposure to a excessive-overall performance application. The pinnacle athletes from Samoa, Tonga & Fiji assembled in September for an in depth training week to emulate a professional rugby surroundings.
Moana Pasifika’s training staff attended the integrate with the goal of rewarding players with education contracts for the 2023 preseason. However, Fai’ilagi impressed together with his physical prowess, sport intelligence and professionalism which noticed him rewarded with a complete-time contract.
Aaron Mauger is highly enthusiastic about bringing the Vailele local right into a Super Rugby environment. “Miracle is a natural chief who exudes humility, recognize and tautua (provider). He has represented Samoa in Rugby Sevens so has a solid health basis, a high paintings fee and is tough-nosed. He isn’t always afraid to place his head in to darkish locations and has a totally excessive ceiling,” says Mauger.
“There turned into a whole lot of untapped skills on the combine and Miracle became one of numerous players that caught our eye. The manner these younger guys answered to being in a professional environment for the first time changed into splendid and we have rewarded every other 5 players with preseason education contracts from the integrate.”
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Four further gamers have earned themselves their first Super Rugby contracts after impressing as substitute gamers for Moana Pasifika in 2022.
Otago’s Abraham Pole joined Moana Pasifika as a permanent injury replacement in 2022 and played in 9 suits, scoring 4 attempts. He solidified his beginning spot at the loosehead facet of the scrum and is a nicely-deserving recipient of a complete-time Super Rugby Pacific settlement.
Another welcomed addition to the squad is uncompromising Manu Samoa first five 8th D’Angelo Leuila. The 25-yr old is a flexible athlete who can also play in the midfield and fullback. Head Coach Aaron Mauger become inspired along with his NPC form for Waikato this 12 months.
Tasman Mako lock Mahonri Ngakuru and North Harbour free ahead Michael Curry are also extended to complete time contracts for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
It’s a dream to play the Drua in our first game and at home. It will be a celebration of all things Pasifika and a wonderful way to start the competition.
Mauger is also eying the game in Apia on April 14th against the Queensland Reds as a special occasion.
In the off season we have made a conscious effort to strengthen our connection to the Pacific Islands through establishing tangible pathways. To connect, serve and inspire our people in the islands is at the forefront of everything we do. It’s an exciting opportunity for everyone involved and hopefully the first of many trips to the Pacific.
Moana Pasifika Super Rugby Pacific 2023 Squad
Forwards: Abraham Pole, Alamanda Motuga, Alex McRobbie, Chris Apoua, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Jack Lam, Joe ‘Apikotoa, Lotu Inisi, Luteru Tolai, Mahonri Ngakuru, Michael Curry, Mike McKee, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Penitoa Finau, Ray Niuia, Samiuela Moli, Samuel Slade, Sekope Kepu, Sione Tu’ipulotu, Solomone Funaki, Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi.
Backs: Anzelo Tuitavuki, Christian Leali’ifano, D’Angelo Leuila, Danny Toala, Ereatara Enari, Fine Inisi, Henry Taefu, Jonathan Taumateine, Levi Aumua, Lincoln McClutchie, Lolagi Visinia, Manu Paea, Neria Foma’i, Tima Fainga’anuku, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Tomasi Alosio, William Havili.