Dai Young is backing World Cup-winning centre Malakai Fekitoa to unleash his “monstrous” tackling on Northampton on Sunday and deliver another performance to confirm his reputation as a midfield force to be feared in Gallagher Premiership.
Fekitoa has taken time to find his form after joining Wasps from Toulon in the summer but he was central to the team’s morale-boosting 26-21 victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate last weekend.
A member of the All Black 2015 World Cup-winning squad, Fekitoa won 24 caps before heading to France and has was added to the Wasps backline to give them some added midfield physicality – something they lack without the 27-year-old in the line-up.
Director of rugby Young now wants to see Fekitoa deliver more of his impressive ball-carrying and tackling against second-placed Northampton, whose defence was repeatedly opened up by Gloucester a week ago.
Young told RugbyPass: “We knew about the physicality he brings and in fairness to Malakai he is getting better with every game. Like any player coming into a new team, it takes time to settle although being in Toulon for two years makes it a little easier.
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“However, you still have to get used to the defensive and attacking patterns. He is starting to show the potential and quality that we know he possesses. He wasn’t fully fit in his first couple of games for us because he was carrying a bit of a knock into pre-season and now he is looking sharper.
“He gives us something we don’t have in the rest of our backline because we have a lot of nice players but lack that physicality. Malakai has given us that and in the last two or three games he has come up with some monstrous tackles which gets everyone up.
“With his ball carries he never fails to beat the first guy which puts you on the front foot and opens up space for others to exploit. It is also important that he is getting more and more comfortable off the pitch because he is a quiet guy.
‘Scotland have got to win some away games in the Six Nations… psychologically, we have got to be more resilient when things don’t go well’
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“He is now speaking more and offering opinions. When you sign a player with his kind of experience you are hoping he brings other things with him besides his play so that others can learn and feed off. We are pleased with him but don’t think we have yet seen the best of Malakai. There is more to come.”
Young is also predicting Fekitoa will forge an increasingly dangerous double act with fellow All Black Lima Sopoaga once the out-half recovers from his recent illness. “Malakai’s arrival has already impacted on Lima who has been really unlucky in the last couple of weeks with a chest and throat infection.
“Before his illness, I thought he was looking like a different player and starting to play with confidence and a smile on his face. Malakai helps this because they used to play together. I am sure we will see that partnership really start to flourish.”
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Young missed Nizaam Carr’s last-gasp try which gave Wasps the win at Bristol because he was in a lift travelling down to the dressing room level from his place in the stand. “We have got hold of that lucky lift and installed it in the Ricoh Arena,” he joked.
“You can score points against Northampton and open them up in midfield, but we know they are a dangerous side.”
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