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Moana Pasifika confirm signing of Wallabies centurion Sekope Kepu

By Alex McLeod

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Moana Pasifika have unveiled Wallabies centurion Sekope Kepu as the franchise’s eighth signing ahead of their debut Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

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A veteran of 16 years of professional rugby experience, Kepu joins the new expansion side from Counties Manukau after joining the province for the 2021 NPC season.

The Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand’s northern regions in recent months restricted the 35-year-old to just two appearances for the Steelers before Counties Manukau, as well as Auckland and North Harbour, were omitted from the remainder of the provincial campaign.

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Nevertheless, Kepu will bring a plethora of experience across all levels of game to Moana Pasifika, including 110 test caps for the Wallabies between 208 and 2019.

Of Tongan descent, Kepu has strong ties to both New Zealand and Australia having been born in Sydney before relocating to Auckland with his family as a youngster.

The Wesley College alumni began his professional career with Counties Manukau in 2006 and was based out of Pukekohe for two seasons before jumping back across the Tasman to take up a Super Rugby contract with the Waratahs in 2008.

That same year, he made his debut for the Wallabies against Italy in Padova and established himself as a mainstay in the green-and-gold jersey.

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During his time in Australia, Kepu played a key role in guiding the Waratahs to their only Super Rugby title to date in 2014 and featured in three World Cups for the Wallabies.

He started at tighthead prop in Australia’s 2015 World Cup final defeat to the All Blacks at Twickenham and played his final international for the Wallabies in their 2019 World Cup pool stage win over Georgia in Shizuoka.

After having announced his retirement in the lead-up the global tournament two years, Kepu ended his test career with one Rugby Championship title, three tests against the British and Irish Lions, six Mandela Challenge Plate wins, three Cook Cup victories and seven James Bevan Trophy successes.

At club and provincial level, Kepu played a solitary match for the New South Wales Country Eagles in Australia’s now-defunct National Rugby Championship in 2018 after having played for Bordeaux in France during the 2015-16 Top 14 season.

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He returned to Europe after the 2019 World Cup to join London Irish in the Premiership, but played just 14 times for the Brentford-based club before returning to New Zealand for personal reasons in February.

Kepu will be joined by former Wallabies teammate Christian Leali’ifano at Moana Pasifika next year after the 34-year-old was named as the franchise’s first-ever signing last Thursday.

Since then, the Aaron Mauger-coached side has confirmed the arrivals of ex-Crusaders halfback Ere Enari, Manu Samoa trio Henry Taefu, Neria Foma’i and Tomasi Alosio, and Tongan internationals Sione Tu’ipulotu and Solomone Funaki.

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:

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Moana Pasifika confirm signing of Wallabies centurion Sekope Kepu

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