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Introducing… Taqele Naiyaravoro

Introducing… Taqele Naiyaravoro

Standing at 6ft 5in and weighing more than 19st, chances are opponents won’t know what’s hit them when Taqele Naiyaravoro makes his Gallagher Premiership Rugby debut.

The 26-year-old Fiji-born, Australian winger was signed by Northampton Saints from Super Rugby side Waratahs in February ready for the 2018-19 campaign.

Naiyaravoro was Northampton’s first signing after they confirmed the arrival of New Zealander Chris Boyd as their new director of rugby following the dismissal of Jim Mallinder.

He is known in the Southern Hemisphere for his ball-carrying ability and is expected to play a big part in Boyd’s plans to transform Saints into “one of the biggest and best teams in Europe”.

Growing up, Naiyaravoro always had a passion for playing rugby union, watching Super 12 and playing the sport all the way through his school days in Fiji.

It was not long before he made the national Under-16s team as both a winger and flanker, after being spotted by a player scout from New Zealand during a secondary schools rugby championship.

He went on to play for Otahuhu Rugby Club in Auckland, before being recruited by Sydney league club West Tigers, where he faced tough competition for a starting spot.

Naiyaravoro was then selected by the Fiji Bati test team and after making his Test debut he was due to feature at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup before dropping out with an ankle injury.

After a stint in rugby league with the Balmain Tigers, Naiyaravoro began his senior union career with the Sydney-based Parramatta Two Blues in the Shute Shield, moving to the Waratahs in 2014.

From there a switch to Glasgow Warriors followed, which included a spectacular Champions Cup hat-trick against the Scarlets during in an impressive season in the Pro12.

Naiyaravoro made his Australia debut back in 2015 against the USA in Chicago, having been a discarded member of the 31-man Wallabies squad for the Rugby World Cup.

After a season with Glasgow, in which he scored nine tries in 22 appearances, the man dubbed the ‘new Jonah Lomu’ returned to Australia and was named in the 39-man squad for a Test series against England.

He was named on the bench for the final Test and scored a try seven minutes after coming onto the pitch against an England side containing new Saints teammates Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Teimana Harrison and Paul Hill.

Naiyaravoro re-signed with Waratahs for the 2016 Super Rugby season, replacing New Zealand winger Zac Guildford, and he has also made two appearances for the Barbarians.

But he will now look to turn around the fortunes of Northampton and bring smiles to the faces of supporters at Franklin’s Gardens, after the club finished in ninth in the 2017/18 campaign.

And with Boyd at the helm and Dan Biggar arriving at Saints ahead of the new Premiership season, Naiyaravoro is relishing the opportunity to be part of the club’s new chapter.

“I’m thrilled to be able to return to the UK and join a massive club in Northampton Saints,” he said. “The squad is already filled with talent and I can’t wait to develop further as a player.”

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