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Former England wing Denny Solomona signs with New Zealand NPC team

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images,)

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Former England wing and cross-code international Denny Solomona has signed with New Zealand NPC side North Harbour for the upcoming provincial campaign.

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Solomona returned to New Zealand, his nation of birth, earlier this year after eight years of professional rugby union and rugby league in England.

During his time in the United Kingdom, the 28-year-old played three seasons in the Super League with the London Broncos and Castleford Tigers before switching codes to join the Sale Sharks in 2016.

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One year later, Solomona made his test debut for England, called up by head coach Eddie Jones for his side’s mid-year tour of Argentina while the country’s frontline players were on tour with the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand.

Solomona, who also played rugby league for Samoa in 2016, went on to play five tests England, playing in both tests during their tour of Argentina before featuring in three matches against the Springboks in South Africa in 2018.

Now, though, the former Melbourne Storm youth prospect is back in New Zealand and has signed with North Harbour as he begins his quest for a Super Rugby contract.

In an interview with the New Zealand Herald earlier this year, Solomona outlined his intention to play in Super Rugby Pacific, where would play with and against numerous players he grew up with.

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A former pupil at both Otahuhu College and St Peter’s College in Auckland, Solomona was educated alongside the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Patrick Tuipulotu and Bryn Hall, and also played touch rugby with Rieko and Akira Ioane.

Solomona told the Herald in January of his desire to share the field with those players – and to bring his young family closer to his mother and grandparents – as key factors in his decision to return to New Zealand.

“I’ve reached a point in my career where there’s something missing,” he said two months ago. “There’s an itch on my back I haven’t scratched before and that is coming back home.

“The competition is fierce. Everyone who knows rugby knows Super Rugby. It would be awesome to go back and touch base with where I came from and play against the boys I grew up with.

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“I’ve achieved a lot in England but it’s time to come home and see where I’m at.”

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Solomona is now one step closer to realising his Super Rugby goal after it was announced on Monday that North Harbour have signed him for the 2022 NPC season.

“North Harbour are excited to announce the signing of dual international Denny Solomona for our 2022 NPC campaign,” the provincial union said in a statement.

“Denny has recently returned to New Zealand after a successful five-year stint with Sale Sharks in the Premiership, and before that the Castleford Tigers in the Super League.

“Denny achieved higher honours in both sports, representing England in rugby union and Samoa in league.

“Denny is big, fast and strong and will provide some quality experience to an exciting North Harbour NPC group.

“We look forward to Denny joining the NPC team and more importantly, the Harbour community.”

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Playing in Super Rugby Pacific isn’t the only goal Solomona hopes to achieve during his time in New Zealand.

World Rugby’s new eligibility laws means Solomona is now eligible to play for the All Blacks or Samoa given it has been more than three years since he last played internationally for England.

Solomona told the Herald in January that he harbours hopes to feature at a World Cup for Samoa, and given next year’s tournament is just 18 months away, a Super Rugby deal with Moana Pasifika may help pave the way for that to come to fruition.

“The aspiration is there to play in a World Cup. The eligibility rules have changed but I have to earn my spot. Just because I say I’m keen doesn’t mean you’re going to get in straight away,” he said.

“I want to deliver some good performances and start loving my rugby more and being surrounded by family.”

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