Kiwi signings could hold the key for Wasps this season
In one of the most exciting years for new additions in Gallagher Premiership Rugby there will surely be no set of fans more thrilled than those at Wasps.
Electric Azzurri talent Matteo Minozzi could set the World Cup alight before running out at the Ricoh Arena while Wasps’ campaign will have a distinctly Kiwi feel with Lima Sopoaga now joined by Malakai Fekitoa and Jeff Toomaga-Allen.
Throw in established Gallagher Premiership pace in the shape of Zach Kibirige, Paolo Odogwu and Ben Vellacott and there is plenty for opposition defence coaches to ponder.
Fly-half Sopoaga goes into his second season after admitting that he found the transition from the southern hemisphere tricky in 2018-19, but 28-year-old tighthead prop Toomaga-Allen is confident he can avoid the same issues.
“I think it’s easier for me to transition than maybe it was for Lima because I’m coming over here for pre-season, I get to actually put in a bit of work with the boys, get to know the fellas instead of coming straight in from one campaign to another,” said Toomaga-Allen, who joins from Super Rugby side the Hurricanes.
“It’s actually better coming in and showing the boys you’re a hard worker or trying to earn respect from the lads, that helps with the transition.
“If you earn their respect then obviously you’ll play better too, we’ve got a long pre-season to connect and bond.
“For me it’s all about working hard to earn my teammates’ respect.
“I’m settling in quite well so far. I’ve been here over a month now and me and the family are doing well, living in Warwick and it’s quite a nice place, a historic town! It’s also easier having the weather as good as it has been!
“We’ve got the likes of Brad Shields, Lima and Malakai here so it makes the transition easier I think, I know them all quite well and played against Mala (Fekitoa) back home.
“I played with Lima all through school and then Brad obviously at Canes, we all get on like a house on fire!
“Our families connect pretty easy but I’m also getting to know all the other boys well to, you’ve got to get to know the locals!”
🎥 GETTING TO KNOW…
Hear more from our new All Black! pic.twitter.com/VEhPdJP7fx
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) September 1, 2019
And so Dai Young has a more than useful trio of former All Blacks at his disposal, with a Junior All Black in the shape of Jimmy Gopperth the perfect man to guide them – the English top flight’s player of the year in 2016-17.
Toomaga-Allen, all 6ft 4in of him, represented New Zealand U20s in 2010 before earning 117 caps for the Canes and becoming All Black No.1130 in 2013.
The front rower helped his side to the Super Rugby title alongside new teammate Shields in 2016, and to the semi-finals this June – pipped by eventual winners Crusaders.
“After 2018 with the Hurricanes I’d achieved what I needed to back home and I always wanted to go overseas,” continued the Wellington-born prop.
“I felt like the timing was right and as one door closes kind of vibe, in this case with the All Blacks, another door opened overseas so I put my name out there.
“Wasps were pretty keen to go, my wife was ready to leave as well and it’s ‘happy wife, happy life’ as they say!
“I don’t really know what to expect from the league yet! But I just want to bring a high quality of rugby to the Premiership and the team collectively, we want to push for finals and we’re just grafting so, so hard at the moment.
“It’s been good getting to know Dai Young too, he’s a good coach, doesn’t say a lot but he’s a good guy!
“Hopefully I can show people what I can bring to the table.”