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'There are not many props who can do that' - Project prop goes from fat to fit

Dean Richards is famously reticent when asked to praise individual Newcastle players but is convinced Sami Mavinga is on course to become the next French front row sensation.

Mavinga stunned Worcester with a 40m sprint and excellent delayed pass to put Newcastle and Tonga scrum half Sonatane Takulua in for a crucial try in the 23-20 win over the Warriors yesterday to confirm his status as the fastest prop in the Gallagher Premiership.

Toby Flood, the former England and Toulouse No10, joined in the praise for the 25-year-old who joined Newcastle from Lyon in 2007 having impressed in two matches against the English club in the European Challenge Cup tournament. However, Mavinga, 5ft 11ins and 18st, was unable to claim a regular place last season as he had to come to grips with the physical demands of the English top flight and was found wanting when it came to personal fitness.

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After a punishing pre-season, Flood believes Mavinga is now equipped to cause havoc in the Premiership with the kind of eye catching performances that will make him an obvious target for the French selectors. Louis Picamoles resurrected his test career with France after a season with Northampton which transformed the No8’s fitness.

Richards, the Newcastle director of rugby, has assembled a squad that finished fourth in the Premiership last season and Mavinga is now adding his ball carrying power to the mix as the Falcons attempt to prove they really are one of the league’s most dangerous outfits. Richards said: “Sami has done incredibly well over the last year and he has a huge amount of potential. During his appraisal we talked about his potential and there is absolutely no reason why he cannot be looked at by the French selectors.

“He has a lot of ability and that inside ball he threw to Takulua – there are not many props who can do that in the game. I couldn’t do it and I was a No8!”

Flood is excited by Mavinga’s potential and expects him to become an even more dynamic player as the season progresses and the prop increases his fitness level. Flood explained: “He is a player who could move up to international rugby and is a real talent.

“Sami came over a little unfit from France and he won’t mind me saying that and he struggled in a few sessions because it is a quick game here.

“In France, it is big men running into big men. Because his confidence is up, he feels more settled and has played really well this season, making line breaks and doing his work in the scrum. He now feels he is part of the squad because I know, having played in France, it takes time to feel like that with a new team. As a prop, they have to do all the horrible stuff in the tight and then get up a run with the ball here in Premiership.”

Having played in France before returning last season to Newcastle, Flood understands the kind of problems, including learning a new language, that Mavinga has been dealing with.

The former England No10 was wiped out in a double tackle by Worcester as result of Mavinga’s English as he explained: “Sami was meant to take the ball off me, but wasn’t there” explained Flood. “When you are tired you can get in the wrong position and I got whacked!”

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'There are not many props who can do that' - Project prop goes from fat to fit | RugbyPass