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Ex-All Black Julian Savea one of 10 potential debutants for Moana Pasifika

By Finn Morton
Julian Savea of Moana Pasifika takes the field during the Super Rugby Pacific Pre-Season Match between Hurricanes and Moana Pasifika at the New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport on February 16, 2024 in Upper Hutt, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Former Hurricanes and All Blacks wing Julian Savea will start at inside centre for Moana Pasifika as one of 10 club debutants to take on the Highlanders in their season-opener.

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Savea, 33, and midfield partner Pepesana Patafilo are both among the fresh faces to play for the club in a competitive match, as is left winger Viliami Fine.

Most of the debutants come in the forwards, though, with captain James Lay, hooker Sama Malolo, prop Sione Mafileo and lock Tom Savage to represent the team for the first time.

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“It’s pretty exciting. I look back at what it took to get here. If you asked me three years ago where I’d be, I wouldn’t have said I’d be playing Super Rugby. I took the long route but I made it a goal when I left home in 2021, and it’s a good feeling knowing that it paid off,” debutant Viliami Fine said in a statement.

“I know a few boys in the Highlanders so it’s special playing against a few of my teammates, and doing it at the same stadium.”

“It will be good to go up against Timoci Tavatavanawai. He’s probably one of the best attacking wingers in the comp so it will be a good test for myself.

“Someone that I’ve learned off was Pepesana Patafilo. When I first came in, the first few weeks they told me that I needed to fix my defence. And he’s someone that’s helped me a lot. Julian Savea and Nigel Ah Wong, they help me a lot too. Just watching what they do on the field and picking up habits has helped me grow my game as well,” Fine added.

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“I’m grateful that they gave me a chance to show what I can do and what I’ve worked for. Now they’ve given me an opportunity, I’m just going to make the most of it.”

Lock Samuel Slade, flankers Miracle Failagi and Alamanda Motuga, and No. 8 Lotu Inisi are also all set to start after playing for Moana Pasifika in the past.

As for the backs, Ereatara Enari joins William Havili in the halves. Right winger Nigel Ah Wong and fullback Danny Toala have also been named to start.

This match at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium is scheduled for a 7.05 pm NZT kick-off on Saturday evening.

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Moana Pasifika team to take on Highlanders

  1. James Lay* (c)
  2. Sama Malolo*
  3. Sione Mafileo*
  4. Tom Savage*
  5. Samuel Slade
  6. Miracle Failagi
  7. Alamanda Motuga
  8. Lotu Inisi
  9. Ereatara Enari
  10. William Havili
  11. Viliami Fine*
  12. Julian Savea*
  13. Pepesana Patafilo*
  14. Nigel Ah Wong
  15. Danny Toala

Reserves

  1. Samiuela Moli
  2. Abraham Pole
  3. Suetena Asomua
  4. Allan Craig*
  5. Jacon Norris*
  6. Aisea Halo*
  7. D’Angelo Leuila
  8. Anzelo Tuitavuki

*Debut

Unavailalbe due to injury/illness: Sekope Kepu, Ofa Tauatevalu, Sione Havili-Talitui, Solomone Funaki, Iakopo Mapu, Semisi Paea, Jonathan Taumateine, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Henry Taefu

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