Bristol boss Pat Lam has hailed the superlative recent form of his new Fijian winger Siva Naulago, who has been on fire in recent weeks for the current Gallagher Premiership leaders. The 29-year-old, who was signed last year from Super League outfit Hull, was sent for some additional union tuition just last month.
Naulago had scored just one try in his initial four Premiership starts, an exposure that culminated in the Bristol defeat by Sale in early February. However, ever since assistant coach Conor McPhillips took him aside to explain some of the positional nuances of elite-level rugby union compared to league, Naulago has hit top form.
He scored twice at London Irish and while he recorded a blank in his next outing against Leicester, he was unstoppable last weekend at Worcester, running in a try hat-trick to take his tally to five tries in his last three matches and six in all over the course of seven Premiership appearances.
Naulago, who enlisted in the British Army at the age of 20 and has seen active duty in Afghanistan, is now in the Bristol team for Friday’s night league game at home to Wasps and Lam can’t wait to see the latest exploits of his flying Fijian unfold.
“We just love the fact the best players you get are coachable players, players who are ambitious. They can have talent but they have got to be coachable,” enthused Lam. “The first thing he said to us after the Worcester game, we go ‘well done’ and he was, ‘Oh, I should have used two hands to give that ball to Nisi [Niyi Adeolokun]’.
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) March 7, 2021
“I had that in my notes. I went ‘that’s good’ and then he also says, ‘I should have let that ball bounce’. He is just thinking about how to get better. He is military, he’s army and he is so fit. Sometimes guys can be really quick but when you look at him afterwards he looks like he can keep going with his work rate.
“There was a time in the game where Billy Searle kicked the ball back to the corner where there was space. Siva read it perfectly. He just saw it and got back, caught the ball, whereas when he first came he wasn’t thinking about those things, a lot of positional stuff and where he is going.
“Even the lines he ran, he missed a couple early on in previous games but Conor McPhillips has been working with him around the lines, where he enters. On the first try, we knew Worcester would come flying up there and the full-back closes early so we just talked about getting on that line and Cal [Callum Sheedy] will put the ball over.
“It worked a treat. It’s like in the army, get on the front line, go and do this and it’s ‘yes sir’. That is what he is like. He’s there, ‘Tell me what you want me to do and I will go and do it’. He is a real breath of fresh air and he’s rapid. It’s very rare that you get rapid and strong.
“Obviously he is very close to Semi (Radradra) and we sort of saw touches like when he played against Exeter he played well. Semi was talking to him the whole time but after Semi got injured in the Bath game, in the Sale game we realised how much impact Semi has on Siva because he got caught out in position a few times.
“That is why we pulled him back, did some work with him, allowed him to re-strengthen his hamstrings as well because in rugby league it’s different training. The medical and S&C team did a great job. They re-strengthened them and he is quicker and stronger than he was. It’s exciting.
“He is still in the army now and is in the barracks, in the houses, and they look after him well. There is a good agreement with the army but he is here for another three, four years which is great.”
'Can you imagine a Premiership club going ‘Right lads, we’re going skiing’. Absolutely no way… it was me, Bryan Habana & Duane Vermeulen learning to ski together' @Dmjattwood fell out of love with rugby at Bath but found it again, writes @heagneyl ??? https://t.co/QWWZQPD1Ek
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 21, 2021
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