Tongan secondrow Steve Mafi will return to English Rugby in 2019.
The former Leicester Tigers secondrow – who can also play in the backrow – is currently plying his trade for Top 14 champions Castres.
Last year the Tongan had been linked with a return to Welford Road for this season. Mafi had apparently agreed terms with the now departed Tigers’ coach Matt O’Connor, who was fired by the club just one game into the 2018/19 season.
That deal fell through last March, with Mafi deciding to stay in France. Mafi had signed a two-year deal with the French club, with an option of a third year, which he ultimately chose to avail of.
A source has now told RugbyPass that the Mafi has instead set to agree terms with London Irish for an annual salary in the region of £500,000 per year.
The versatile forward currently has a RPI score of 65, placing him in 22nd place in the Top 14.
Mafi will be a key forward with London Irish, who are set to bounce back up into the Premiership after a year in the Championship. London Irish plan to move back to London with a groundshare at Brentford FC.
They are also set to benefit from a major windfall, namely the Premiership Rugby’s £200million minority stake sale to CVC Capital Partners.
The 29-year-old made 85 appearances for the Tigers and played in two losing Aviva Premiership finals, before finally lifting the trophy in the 2012/13 season, when they beat Northampton Saints 37-17 to claim the club’s 10th English title.
An LV Cup winner in 2012 also, Mafi left the club in 2014 for family reasons to return to Australia. He played at Greater Sydney Rams and Super Rugby for Western Force.
After spent two seasons Down Under, he joined Top 14 side Castres, and was part of the Castres side which thumped Leicester 39-0 in the Champions Cup in January of 2018, when he came off the bench.
His grandfather Sione Mafi Pahulu captained Tonga.
Watch the Heineken Champions Cup Final live on RugbyPass throughout Asia and Australia.