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Moana Pasifika confirm final signing to complete inaugural Super Rugby squad

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Moana Pasifika’s inaugural Super Rugby Pacific squad has been completed with confirmation of Manawatu wing Tima Fainga’anuku’s signing for the 2022 season.

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A former member of the Crusaders and Highlanders, Fainga’anuku has two seasons of Super Rugby experience to his name and has also spent time abroad playing for Perpignan in France’s Top 14 between 2018 and 2019.

Within New Zealand, the 24-year-old brother of Crusaders star Leicester has established himself as a powerful speedster who won two NPC titles with Tasman during his five-year spell at the province before linking up with the Turbos this season.

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Fainga’anuku was also a world champion with the New Zealand U20 side in 2017 and represented the All Blacks Sevens in 2018.

However, it’s with Tonga where his international ambitions appear to lie as it was announced he would play sevens for his nations of birth at the Final Olympic Qualification Tournament in Monaco earlier this year.

Covid-19 travel restrictions prevented Fainga’anuku from making the switch, though, meaning he remains tied to New Zealand, but his intent on pledging his allegiance to Tonga is promising for the Pacific Island nation.

That much is reflected by his commitment to Moana Pasifika, with their roster now full ahead of the expansion franchise’s debut campaign in the revamped edition of Super Rugby.

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Fainga’anuku will compete for places in Moana Pasifika’s outside back trio with the likes of Tasman speedster Timoci Tavatavanawai, ex-Brumbies and NRL star Solomone Kata and former Blues and Hurricanes flyer Lolagi Visinia.

Visinia will be accompanied in the Moana Pasifika set-up by midfielder Danny Toala and halfback Jonathan Taumateine, all of whom were members of this year’s Hurricanes squad.

Others in the Moana Pasifika squad who played in this year’s Super Rugby include ex-Crusaders pair Ere Enari and Isi Tuungafasi, former Blues duo Ray Niuia and Luteru Tolai, ex-Chiefs prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth and former Western Force midfielder Henry Taefu.

None, however, boast the starpower of ex-Wallabies stars Christian Lealiifano and Sekope Kepu.

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Lealiifano, a 26-test first-five who last played for Australia at the 2019 World Cup, was announced as the franchise’s first-ever signings last month, and joins from the NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Japan.

Next year’s season-opener between Moana Pasifika and the Brumbies at Mt Smart Stadium will pit Lealiifano against his former side, who he made 150 appearances for between 2007 and 2019.

The 34-year-old has competition for the No 10 jersey, though, as Hawke’s Bay star Lincoln McClutchie headlines the seven Magpies players in the Moana Pasifika squad due to his status as one of the most promising prospects in New Zealand.

Kepu, meanwhile, is a 110-test veteran of three World Cups who links up with Moana Pasifika from Counties Manukau.

Like Lealiifano, Kepu is no stranger to Super Rugby, after having made 141 appearances for the Waratahs, with whom he won the 2014 title.

Other notable inclusions in the Moana Pasifika squad include former Blues and Chiefs powerhouse Levi Aumua, Manu Samoa stalwart Jack Lam and ex-Western Force loose forward Henry Stowers.

All in all, the squad features nine Manu Samoa players, five ‘Ikale Tahi representatives, two former Wallabies and a Hong Kong international in the form of prop Tau Koloamatangi.

The squad, which will be led by head coach Aaron Mauger and his assistant Filo Tiatia, also has players of Fijian, Cook Island, Niuean and Maori heritage.

Moana Pasifika will kick-off its 2022 campaign against the Brumbies at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on February 18.

2022 Moana Pasifika squad

Hookers: Ray Niuia, Sam Moli, Luteru Tolai

Props: Sekope Kepu, Isileli Tuungafasi, Joe Apikatoa, Tau Koloamatangi, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Chris Apoua

Locks: Don Lolo, Mike McKee, Veikoso Poliniati, Alex McRobbie

Loose Forwards: Henry Stowers, Jack Lam, Sione Tuipulotu, Solomone Funaki, Penitoa Finau, Lotu Inisi, Sam Slade, Alamanda Motuga

Halfbacks: Ereatara Enari, Jonathan Taumateine, Manu Paea

First-fives: Christian Lealifano, Lincoln McClutchie, William Havili

Midfield: Levi Aumua, Danny Toala, Henry Taefu, Fine Inisi

Outside Backs: Lolagi Visinia, Neria Fomai, Tomasi Alosio, Solomone Kata, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Tima Fainga’anuku, Anzelo Tuituvuki

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