THE Fijian winger joining Glasgow Warriors in the summer has been dubbed “the new Jonah Lomu”.
Taqele Naiyaravoro has penned a three-year contract, subject to a visa and medical, and the 23-year-old will join the Scotstoun club in July at the end of the Super Rugby season, where he is currently impressing with champions New South Wales Waratahs.
The 6ft 5in, 19-stone wrecking ball had initially been linked with a move to Edinburgh, but that seems to have stemmed from confusion in the Australian media due to negotiations taking place with the Scottish Rugby Union at Murrayfield. The word out of Edinburgh yesterday was that it was always
Glasgow who were in for the player, with the void being left by Tim Visser in the capital to be filled by Tonga winger Will Helu, who will join them from Wasps, and young speedster Damien Hoyland.
For Glasgow, the arrival of Naiyaravoro looks to be the ideal “X-factor” signing to replace fellow Fijian Niko Matawalu, who is heading to Bath next season. Sean Maitland and DTH van der Merwe are also heading for pastures new.
Naiyaravoro said: “Glasgow are a strong team and it’s really exciting to get the opportunity to move over there and play my rugby in Scotland next season.
“It’s been great playing with the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale at the Waratahs this season. They’ve been really helpful and I’ve learnt a lot from them.
“It will be a new challenge for me to play in the Guinness Pro12 and compete against the best sides in Europe in the Champions Cup.”
The high-profile capture is another boost for Glasgow, who finished top of the regular Guinness Pro12 season at the weekend and now face Ulster at Scotstoun in the semi-finals on Friday night. Gregor Townsend, who was named Pro12 coach of the year in Dublin on Sunday night, said: “Taqele is a very exciting signing for our club.
“His sheer size and strength will give us another option in our back-line and I’m sure he will be an excellent addition to our squad.
“He has a great attitude and desire to work and improve and we’d like to thank Scottish Rugby for their support in securing a player of Taqele’s quality.
“We look forward to him joining us at the end of the season and we know he’ll be with us regardless of any international commitments.”
In theory, the uncapped player could go on to qualify to play for Scotland on residency grounds, although he is obviously also eligible for Fiji. Last week he hinted that a Wallabies call-up could tempt him to stay in Australia.
“Yeah, if I get selection, yeah, I would like to stay here,” he told the Sydney media, after appearing to have been given encouragement by Australia coach Michael Cheika.
“That gives me a lot of confidence, but my main focus is with the Waratahs. If that time [selection] comes, if it’s in God’s plan, then I will put my hand up, but in the time being I’m just trying to play my best footy. If it happens, it happens.”
Naiyaravoro, who was born in Suva, played rugby union at school in Fiji before being spotted by a scout who took him to New Zealand at the age of just 19.
He was recruited by Australian National Rugby League side Wests Tigers in 2012, and was a prolific try-scorer for their NSW Cup team. He scored 23 tries in 15 games for the Balmain Tigers before switching codes and joining the Waratahs.
Naiyaravoro has started seven games in Super Rugby and earlier this month he scored an incredible solo-effort against Western Force, which led to the comparisons with All Blacks legend Lomu.
An early scouting report on Waratahs’ first pre-Super 15 trial against Sydney club sides read: “The Fijian flyer produced Jonah Lomu-style runs down the sideline, trampling and fending off opposition to score a double and set up two more in 60 minutes terrorising club sides Randwick and Sydney University.”
Naiyaravoro, though, has been understandably keen to play down any similarities with the Kiwi behemoth.
“Back home I used to watch some of his highlights and games, and he was a very big idol for me,” he said last week. “When they told me I was like him I thought ‘nah’, he’s way up there.
“I’m way different to him. He’s done his thing and he’s the best at it. I’m just using what God gave me, the power and strength and size I have. I don’t really agree with getting compared to him, he’s way different to me.”
• It was confirmed yesterday that Friday’s Glasgow v Ulster Guinness Pro12 semi-final showdown at Scotstoun Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm) will be live on both Sky Sports and BBC Alba.