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London Irish land All Black Naholo in shock coup for club

Fresh after officially confirming the signing of British and Irish Lions backrow Sean O’Brien, and London Irish have landed another huge name.

Two weeks after first reporting the possibility of the mega-move, RugbyPass now understands that All Black Waisike Naholo has signed for the Reading-based club and that it will be officially confirmed in coming weeks.

Irish beat Wasps to the Highlander’s signature, in what is the latest addition to a growing raft of big name international talent switching to the club.

The Declan Kidney coached side have confirmed the signing of Wallabies Nick Phipps and Curtis Rona, as well as Scottish loosehead Allan Dell.

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Currently ranked as the fourth best left wing in the world by the RugbyPass Index – Naholo has slipped down the All Blacks wing pecking order and his inclusion on the World Cup squad is very much in question.

Despite doing little wrong in an All Black jersey, critics of the Fijian born wing have pointed at a less rounded game than the likes of Nehe Milner-Skudder, Damien McKenzie, Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane.

Naholo comes to the club as a confirmed try scorer and at 27 – is still in his prime.

However, it’s not all been plain sailing for Irish, as the club are still to confirm their engine room. RugbyPass understands that Adam Coleman remains top of the wishlist, but that a deal to sign Tongan utility forward Steve Mafi has fallen through.

If the deal to sign Mafi has indeed fallen through, it will leave a considerable amount in the warchest to land the 6’8, 122kg Wallaby.

London Irish are set to bounce back up into the Premiership after a year in the Championship, and in the midst of serious rebuild – a rebuild that is being largely funded by the club’s share of the Premiership Rugby’s £200million minority stake sale to CVC Capital Partners.

London Irish confirmed in December that it would leave Reading after 18 years playing at the Madejski Stadium.

The Madejski is around 30 miles away from its state-of-the-art training base in Sunbury and a move back to London had been on the cards.

The club confirmed they will be playing in London at the new Brentford Community Stadium from the start of the 2020/21 season.

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London Irish land All Black Naholo in shock coup for club