20-year-old Taranaki lock Tupou Vaa’i has signed with the Chiefs through to 2023.

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The 1.98m lock hailing from Wesley College joined the Chiefs at the start of the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa competition as an injury replacement player.

Vaa’i was widely recognised for his strong debut in the Chiefs opening match of the new competition against the Highlanders in Dunedin earlier this year.

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He concluded the season with seven Chiefs caps and earned selection in the North squad for the 2020 North vs South fixture.

Vaa’i said he was excited for the opportunity ahead.

“I always dreamed of playing for the Chiefs when I was growing up at school, so to debut this year was a dream come true. I’ve enjoyed being in the Chiefs environment and have learnt a lot around my role as lock,” he said.

“I am very excited to see what the future has installed for us as a team and am looking forward to both training and having the opportunity to learn off quality players.”

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Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland said he is an impressive young player.

“This is a great opportunity for Tupou. He joined us for the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign and for a young lock, he impressed us and certainly has a bright future ahead.

“He is a great trainer and is a strong physical lock. We are looking forward to seeing his game develop and what he can bring to the Chiefs.”

Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins said Vaa’i has a promising future ahead.

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“Tupou is an exciting young lock and one with a promising future ahead of him. We were exceptionally impressed with his performance during the Super Rugby Aotearoa season and it has not been unnoticed.

“We will look forward to seeing him take the field in the upcoming Mitre 10 Cup for Taranaki.”

Vaa’i has previously played for the New Zealand Barbarians Schools in 2016 and New Zealand Schools in 2017. Vaa’i currently plays for the Taranaki Bulls in the Mitre 10 Cup.

– Chiefs Rugby

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