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Moana Pasifika sign first Cook Islander as one of three new signings

By Alex McLeod

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Moana Pasifika have added the first player of Cook Island heritage to their squad as one of three new signings.

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In the ninth wave of player announcements ahead of their debut campaign in the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific season, the expansion franchise have unveiled locks Mike McKee, Don Lolo and Veikoso Poloniati as their newest arrivals.

The trio are the first second rowers to be added to Moana Pasifika’s roster, with McKee being the first player of Cook Island descent to be included in the squad.

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All Blacks react to 104-14 victory over USA Eagles
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The 28-year-old plays for Southland in New Zealand’s NPC and has made 42 appearances for the Stags, including five this year, since his first-class debut in 2015.

He also played four times for Counties Manukau in 2018, and has played abroad for the Asia Pacific Dragons during the 2019 Global Rapid Rugby series and for Ciencias Rugby Sevilla in Spain between 2019 and 2020.

Don Lolo, meanwhile, has been awarded a Super Rugby contract on the back of his test debut for Tonga earlier this year.

Lolo was one of many players called into the ‘Ikale Tahi squad from club rugby in New Zealand for their one-off test against the All Blacks and their World Cup qualifiers against Samoa and the Cook Islands in July.

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Plying his trade for Taieri in Dunedin, Lolo won his first test cap in the 102-0 drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks at Mt Smart Stadium and started in both matches against Samoa in Auckland and Hamilton.

Lolo joins Moana Pasifika with no NPC experience, with only provincial outings coming in the Heartland Championship, where he played five times for North Otago between 2014 and 2017, and six times for South Canterbury in 2016.

It is in the second row where Lolo could partner up with his countryman Poloniati, who also played 12 times for South Canterbury in 2018 and was selected for the New Zealand Heartland XV that year.

Poloniatu was then named in the Manawatu NPC squad for the first time this year, and has since played five times for the Turbos.

Confirmed Moana Pasifika signings for 2022 Super Rugby Pacific

Props: Sekope Kepu (Counties Manukau)

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Hookers: N/A

Locks: Don Lolo (Taieri), Mike McKee (Southland), Veikoso Poloniati (Manawatu)

Loose Forwards: Solomone Funaki (Hawke’s Bay), Lotu Inisi (North Harbour), Jack Lam (Waikato), Alamanda Motuga (Counties Manukau), Henry Time-Stowers (Canterbury), Sione Tu’ipulotu (Auckland)

Halfbacks: Ereatara Enari (Crusaders)

First-Fives: Christian Leali’ifano (NTT Communications Shining Arcs), Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke’s Bay)

Midfielders: Fine Inisi (North Harbour), Henry Taefu (Western Force)

Outside Backs: Tomasi Alosio (Wellington), Neria Foma’i (Hawke’s Bay)

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Moana Pasifika sign first Cook Islander as one of three new signings

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