Hooker Elia Elia is fired up to help Harlequins defeat Wasps on Saturday in their bid for a Gallagher Premiership play-off place and prove to the Samoa selectors he needs to be in their World Cup squad in Japan.
Elia, who has six Test caps, is very much an example to those players taking part in the under-20s World Championship in Argentina next month that impressing on that stage can change your rugby life.
He was first tracked by Quins in 2016 as a No8 playing for Samoa at that age-grade championship. He then moved to hooker, making his senior international debut a year later against France and delivering a performance that convinced the London club to give him a short-term contract.
Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard has been so impressed with the potential show by the 23-year-old Christchurch-born hooker that he handed him a three-year deal at the start of this year.
“Elia is so laid back he is horizontal, but he’s a very talented rugby player who has natural game sense, incredible latent raw power and a great turn of pace. That makes him one of the most dangerous ball carrying hookers in the Premiership,” said the Quins boss.
???? Elia Elia to to Alofa Alofa pic.twitter.com/f5g23JUaiR
— Harlequins ? (@Harlequins) November 7, 2017
Elia’s intensely physical style has made him a fan favourite at the Twickenham Stoop and he’s desperate to repay the faith shown in him by the club by securing a play-off place on the final day of the regular season at the Ricoh Arena.
Quins are currently fifth, one point behind Northampton who have to travel to leaders Exeter on Saturday. Elia has nothing but praise for the effect Gustard has had on the club since opting out of his England defence coach role. However, he admits it took time for the players to deliver what their head of rugby demanded.
The team is now operating with the defensive ferocity Gustard requires. Allied to an attacking game, that makes them a dangerous force at his crucial point of the season.
“It’s a long season with ups and downs and to be so close to the play-offs is really exciting,” said Elia. “I believe we have now adapted to what Paul wants. It was pretty hard in pre-season but we have gelled together as a squad and everyone is on the same page. Our win over Leicester put us in this position to fight for the top four.
“The boys are now used to the way Paul is. He is a hands-on sort of coach and likes to work us hard. We have had injuries to deal with this season and players have stepped up, including the academy boys, to help the team progress. We’re not going to change our game plan because it is Wasps. Paul has told us exactly what he wants and it will come down to who wants it most on Saturday.
“I have been fortunate to get this opportunity with Quins and am loving the whole atmosphere. I’m going to keep doing what I can for Quins and if the call comes from Samoa for the World Cup, then I am going to be overwhelmed.
— Harlequins ? (@Harlequins) May 14, 2019
“I have been included in all emails about dates etc… and if that phone call comes then my family will be so proud. It would be a fantastic way to finish off this season with Quins by playing at the World Cup.”
Elia believes this World Cup in Japan will see all three of the major island nations – Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – make a real impact as all their star players will be included in the national squads. “The fact that all the players are going to be available with clubs releasing them to play is really important,” he reckoned.
“It makes us dangerous at the World Cup and all of the island nations are going to front up. The players from the Pacific Island nations playing here in England get to meet up. Here at the club we have a good community and we get together as families for a feed.
“We also have family BBQs with the London Irish boys, go to church on Sunday and stick to the cultural upbringings mixing and mingling. My first season was quite hard as I was adjusting to being so far away from home, but I have my partner and our baby here now. That has really given me the desire to play my hardest for them and Quins.”
WATCH: Part five of The Academy, the RugbyPass documentary on Leicester Tigers
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