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Report: Two French clubs looking to swoop in on young All Black

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Recently capped All Black and Crusaders winger Leicester Fainga’anuku has become the target for two interested Top 14 clubs according to French publication RugbyRama.

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The Bordeaux Begles and Clermont are the two interested clubs in pursuit of the powerful Crusaders outside back who can play wing or outside centre.

Clermont have lost French international Damian Penaud to rivals Bordeaux, who are now looking for a suitable replacement, while Bordeaux has been active in recent years recruiting star outside backs.

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Despite signing Penaud, the Begles are set to lose Argentinian Santiago Cordero in addition to Geoffrey Cros and Italian Federico Mori, the other wingers on the roster and are looking to make another splash signing in the market.

The 23-year-old is off contract after 2023 with New Zealand Rugby and would be a shock loss to lose the young star so early in his career to France.

After debuting in 2019 with the Crusaders, Fainga’anuku has become a mainstay of Scott Robertson’s champion side covering at centre frequently when injuries struck.

The blockbusting outside back has scored 37 tries in 42 Super games for the Crusaders in just over three full seasons since his lone appearance in 2019, while winning two Super Rugby Aotearoa titles and the inaugual Super Rugby Pacific competition last year.

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His Crusaders form led to an All Blacks debut, he was called into the All Blacks squad for their series against Ireland and made his debut in the first test at Eden Park, a 42-19 win.

He retained his starting spot for the second test but a horror night for the All Blacks saw the young Crusader become a casualty for the series decider.

After missing selection for The Rugby Championship, he was recalled for the end-of-year-tour but stepped down for family reasons and travelled home from Japan.

A move to France would spell the end of Fainga’anuku’s short All Black career with the current restrictions on overseas-based players, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of his international days.

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The son of former Tongan international prop Malakai Fainga’anuku could complete an eligibility switch with a three-year stand down and follow in his father’s footsteps.

Leicester’s brother Tima, currently with Moana Pasifika, completed a two-year stint in France with Perpignan and has been capped by Tonga six times to date.

If a transfer is completed, Fainga’anuku would become the second debutant from the 2022 crop of All Blacks to move on, with Chiefs No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula having already confirmed a move to France.

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