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The 'Test match Tuesdays' spurring on Vunipola cousin Pifeleti

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Saracens/Getty Images)

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Promising hooker Kapeli Pifeleti is looking to step on the career accelerator at Saracens and start winning trophies at the London club in the same team as his esteemed cousins, Mako and Billy. The Tongan-born hooker was introduced to the Sarries academy after an MLR stint at San Diego Legion where he also made his Test debut for the USA, he is now targeting more frequent selection after his best season yet in London.  

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Despite having Jamie George and Tom Woolstencroft ahead of him in the queue for the No2 spot, Pifeleti has made eight Gallagher Premiership appearances off the bench this term and believes the no-nonsense midweek training at Saracens will be the making of him in England.

“It is either a Tuesday or a Wednesday that we have our full intensity sessions,” explained Pifeleti on the Saracens club website. “We joke and we call it Test match Tuesdays or World Cup Wednesday and these sessions are pretty much full go.

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“To do that every week is not easy, but slowly you become a better player for it even though you might not be playing. Just training against these guys might as well be a game itself.”

The son of a Tongan international, Pifeleti used to rise early in the morning in the Pacific Islands to see his cousins Mako and Billy in action in the big Saracens matches. “I always used to watch them in Prem finals, in European finals or whatever big games,” he continued. 

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I never thought I’d play rugby for a living because I didn’t think I would move over to England and then then I did. I always dreamt of playing with them or following in their footsteps, but I never thought I’d actually do it. It seemed too unrealistic. I was back at home, waking up at 6am to watch their games and I thought that was as far as I could go. 

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“They used to send over some of the Sarries kit and I used to wear the kit with their initials on it, thinking, ‘How good is this?’, not knowing that one day I’d have my own Sarries kit with my initials and my squad number on it. It is crazy.

When I first joined Sarries, I questioned why they had signed me. I thought I was alright at rugby, but I never thought I’d be able to play for Sarries because they had done the double the year before and I didn’t see myself playing for this team.”

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