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All Blacks powerhouse Fifita to make Wasps bow this weekend

By Sam Smith
Vaea Fifita /Getty

New All Blacks signing Vaea Fifita is set to make his bow for Wasps this weekend in a pre-season friendly.

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Wasps face Championship side and neighbours Coventry Rugby and have named a 29-man squad for the fixture and Fifita, who can play anywhere across the back five of the pack, starts in the second row.

A player with immense speed for his size, Fifita’s impressive athleticism saw him make the most lineout steals (22) of any New Zealand player in Super Rugby since the beginning of 2016.

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The 29-year-old has 11 caps for the All Blacks, after making an eye-catching debut against Samoa in 2017, signed on at the Ricoh Arena in June.

Fifita has joined former teammates Brad Shields and Jeff Toomaga-Allen in Coventry, with whom he won the Super Rugby title with Hurricanes in 2016.  The 6ft 5in, 111kg forward played over 50 games for the Canes, while also appearing for the Wellington Lions.

“Vaea is an athlete, a proper athlete. Big, strong, powerful, fast. He is very good with the ball in hand. He is very tall so his off-loading game is really, really special. It’s a case of when he has got the ball something is going to happen, so the guys are just trying to read him and getting on his opportunities so he can create,” enthused Jimmy Gopperth last week.

Fifita is joined in the second row by Tim Cardall. Fellow New Zealander Shields captains the side from blindside flanker, Thomas Young is at openside flanker and Tom Willis packs down at number eight.

Fellow debutant Ali Crossdale, who signed from Saracens, will also make his debut at fullback. Crossdale is joined by Matteo Minozzi and Marcus Watson in the back three.

Tom Cruse starts at hooker and is in line to make his 100th appearance for Wasps. He is joined in the front row by Ben Harris and Biyi Alo.

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In the backs, Wasps Academy products Will Porter and Charlie Atkinson form the half-back partnership.

Outside them Michael Le Bourgeois and Sam Spink are in the centres.

WASPS:
15 Ali Crossdale
14 Marcus Watson
13 Sam Spink
12 Michael Le Bourgeois
11 Matteo Minozzi
10 Charlie Atkinson
9 Will Porter
1 Ben Harris
2 Tom Cruse
3 Biyi Alo
4 Vaea Fifita
5 Tim Cardall
6 Brad Shields
7 Thomas Young
8 Tom Willis

BENCH:
16 Dan Frost
17 Robin Hislop
18 Elliot Millar-Mills
19 Mario Pichardie
20 Ben Morris
21 Sam Wolstenholme
22 Zach Kibirige
23 Rob Miller
24 Rekeiti’i Ma’asi-White
25 Alfie Barbeary
26 Will Simonds
27 Kieran Curran
28 Zac Nearchou
29 Dan Eckersley

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