Harlequins centre and former All Black Francis Saili will be plying his trade in the ProD2 next season after agreeing to join Biarritz Olympique. Once a giant of European and French rugby, Biarritz have been unable to scale their previous heights after being relegated in season 2014/15.
They contested the 2006 European Cup against Munster and won the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2012, defeating Toulon in a game staged at the Twickenham Stoop. They finished sixth in the ProD2’s abandoned season.
Speaking following confirmation of his move, Saili said: “I’d like to confirm my time with Harlequins after three seasons will be coming to an end. It has been an honour playing for such a prestigious club, and alongside some great lads.
“Unfortunately, my time with the Club didn’t plan out as I desired due to a series of injuries. However, the times I was given in the Quarters, I gave it my all.
“Quins will always hold a special place in my heart during my career. I have made some friendships here that I know I will cherish for life.
“My family and I would like to thank all the staff and fans at Harlequins for their support during our time with the Club.”
Harlequins Head of Rugby Paul Gustard said: “We wish Francis and his young family all the very best in the next chapter of their rugby journey.
“Francis has had a frustrating time with injury in his three seasons at the Club, limiting his opportunity and appearances in the famous Quarters.
“On a personal level I am pleased Francis has managed to find an opportunity to show everyone how good a player he can be. He is a very personable and energetic person who is well liked amongst the players and support staff. I only wish good things for him and his family in the future.
“We feel well catered for in the centres with the breakthrough of big Paul Lasike, and the return of James Lang, Ben Tapuai and Joe Marchant after season-long absences; which, allied to the significant talent of young Luke Northmore and the signing of superstar Springbok Andre Esterhuizen, the centres will once again be a hotly contested position with the potential of tantalising and very exciting combinations available to the coaches.
“We see the future as very bright with the group we have and anticipate them having the skill to unleash the explosive pace we have in the back three with the likes of Gabs [Gabriel Ibitoye], Cadan [Murley], Aaron [Morris] and Ross [Chisholm].
“With Nathan Earle now fully fit and Mike Brown returning from his season-long injury to complement the try-scoring prowess and incredible ability of new signing Chris Ashton, there is plenty of fire power there to cause some real concerns for opposition defences and get our fans licking their lips in anticipation for some exciting rugby at The Stoop.”
In 2013, Saili was capped twice by the All Blacks, debuting against Argentina in the Rugby Championship before facing Japan in Tokyo. He also represented the Barbarians in 2014, in a match against Australia at Twickenham Stadium.
Saili was part of the victorious New Zealand side that won the 2011 U20s Junior World Championship. He started in the final against England playing alongside Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Charles Piutau and Beauden Barrett.
After representing Auckland in provincial rugby, Saili made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in 2012. In his three seasons with the Blues, he scored seven tries in 42 appearances.
A move to Munster followed in 2015 where Saili’s nine tries in 40 appearances helped the Province to the 2016/17 Pro12 Final after finishing top of the standings in the regular season.
— Jean-Baptiste Aldigé (@jbaldige) May 17, 2020
In 2017 Saili joined Harlequins, where he made 34 appearances for the London club. The ProD2 will be the fourth league Saili has played him, having spent time in Super Rugby, the Guinness PRO14 and the Gallagher Premiership.
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