The Scarlets have announced the signing of All Black Vaea Fifita for next season — a transfer which head coach Dwayne Peel has hailed as a major statement of intent.
The 29-year-old lock or back-row forward has been a shining light for Wasps and only this month was feted by the English club’s coach Lee Blackett as performing “brilliantly” for them.
But the Scarlets have now secured his services.
A player blessed with power and pace, he was described by commentators as a “freak of nature” when he arrived on the international scene in 2017.
The 6ft 5in, 17st 7lb player also offers a commanding lineout presence and is a renowned pilferer of opposition ball.
Read more: How good is Vaea Fifita? Meet the All Black heading to Welsh rugby as Wasps fans gutted
It is potentially a stunning signing for the west Walians, with Peel unable to contain his delight, saying: “We have signed a world-class player in Vaea and this is a real statement of our intent and ambition as a club.
“Vaea is a superb athlete, an X-factor player with the all-round skill-set that fits with how we are looking to play at the Scarlets.
“He also brings a lot of experience at international and Super Rugby level and as well as adding Test-match quality to our pool of second rows, that experience will be invaluable to the young forwards that are coming through at the club.
“Vaea is the kind of player that gets fans out of their seats and it’s hugely exciting that he will be pulling on the Scarlets jersey next season. I am sure Scarlets fans will enjoy watching him and we can’t wait to welcome him to Parc y Scarlets in the summer.”
The Scarlets have been light on experienced locks since the departure of Jake Ball last summer and also Tevita Ratuva, so Fifita’s arrival should go a long way to putting that right.
His versatility also means he could figure at flanker.
Born and raised in Tonga, he moved to New Zealand on a scholarship as a teenager before going on to star in provincial rugby for Wellington and then in Super Rugby for the Hurricanes, delivering a try-scoring appearance against the touring 2017 British and Irish Lions .
Steve Hansen called him a “real physical beast” and Fifita made a memorable first Test start against Argentina in the Rugby Championship, crowning his effort with what was described as “one of the best loose-forward tries you’re ever likely to see” as he tore clear over 40 meters for the touchdown.
In all, he has 11 New Zealand caps in his locker.
He will link up with his former Hurricanes team-mates Sam Lousi and Blade Thomson at Parc y Scarlets, with Fifita and Thomson having been members of the Canes’ Super Rugby title-winning squad of 2016.
Fifita said: “My family and I cannot wait to be a part of the west Wales community. I will be working hard to achieve the ambitious goals that the club has set for the future.
“I have confidence that this group can bring pride and success to the people of the region. I look forward to meeting you all for the first time at Parc y Scarlets.”
Scarlets general manager of rugby Jon Daniels said: “Vaea is a quality player and we are delighted he has agreed to join us at Scarlets. We identified early in our recruitment cycle that a world-class lock was vital to our performance as well as supporting the development of the quality young second rows we have here at Scarlets. Vaea has been top of our list of targets for quite some time.”
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