Moana Pasifika sign second ex-Wallaby for inaugural season

Former Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu has joined Christian Lealiifano as a foundation player at Moana Pasifika, for their inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign next year. Ex-Brumbies playmaker Lealiifano was the first big name to formally commit to the expansion franchise, with Kepu – Australia’s most capped prop – announced on Tuesday. The 35-year-old has 110 Test caps […]

Moana Pasifika sign second ex-Wallaby for inaugural season

Former Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu has joined Christian Lealiifano as a foundation player at Moana Pasifika, for their inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign next year.

Ex-Brumbies playmaker Lealiifano was the first big name to formally commit to the expansion franchise, with Kepu – Australia’s most capped prop – announced on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old has 110 Test caps to his name, last playing for Australia at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Making 141 appearances with NSW between 2008 and 2019, Kepu cut short his contract with London Irish earlier this year and shifted to New Zealand for “personal family health reasons”.

He signed with NPC club Counties Manukau for the 2021 season before linking with Moana Pasifika, who will be based in Auckland.

“Kepu has played 295 professional matches since his debut in 2006 and bring with him a wealth of knowledge to impart on our exciting, young squad,” Moana Pasifika announced on social media.

Moana Pasifika also confirmed the signings of Manu Samoa internationals Henry Taefu, Neria Foma’i and Tomasi Alosio.

The team will be coached by former All Blacks and Crusaders star Aaron Mauger.

MORE TO COME

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Eddie Jones makes surprising call on Louis Lynagh with Wallabies waiting to pounce

England coach Eddie Jones named a 34-man squad for northern winter internationals on Tuesday and one ommission in particular would have been greeted with great interest by the Wallabies. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, speaking last week, said he still held out hope that Louis Lynagh, the son of Wallabies legend Michael, might play for Australia […]

Eddie Jones makes surprising call on Louis Lynagh with Wallabies waiting to pounce

England coach Eddie Jones named a 34-man squad for northern winter internationals on Tuesday and one ommission in particular would have been greeted with great interest by the Wallabies.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, speaking last week, said he still held out hope that Louis Lynagh, the son of Wallabies legend Michael, might play for Australia despite having turned out for England at under 16, 18 and 19 level.

Lynagh, 20, also qualifies for Italy but he has yet to be locked down to a senior nation, having not played a full international.

Signs seemed to be pointing to Jones using him in the upcoming run of Tests, starting against Tonga on November 7 and which includes a battle against the Wallabies at Twickenham on November 14. But Lynagh was culled as the squad went from 45 to 34 on Tuesday (AEDT).

“Obviously Eddie’s well aware of his lineage and (the need to) catch him quickly,” Rennie said last week.

“But we’ll see how things go there, whether they use him or not over the next period and whether there’s any interest in him to come back to Australia.

“Not until he’s capped (is he England’s).”

Louis’ younger brother Tom has moved to Brisbane on a contract with the Queensland Reds and declared his dream is to wear Wallaby gold. A fullback or winger, Louis opted to stay in England with Harlequins.

Louis Lynagh of Harlequins in action during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Harlequins and Worcester Warriors at Twickenham Stoop on September 25, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Jones, asked about Lynagh after naming his squad, said it was up to Lynagh to make a decision.

“He makes the choice of where he wants to play,” Jones said. “We think he’s a very good player, but there are things he needs to tidy up. We’re not in a selection battle with other countries to pick players.”

Jones was in typically feisty form as he spoke with brutal honesty about several other ommitted players, questioning their hunger.

He left out two-time World Cup reps George Ford, Jamie George, Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola, opting for a youthful group with four uncapped players and eight who made their debuts in July.

“We have a number of players who’ve been through two World Cup campaigns,” Jones said.

“With the third World Cup campaign, I’ve seen it previously, and my experience tells me, that some players can want to go to the World Cup, but they don’t really have the will to prepare to win the World Cup.

“One of the things I’m looking at is those players who’ve already been to two World Cups, whether they’ve got the will to prepare to win. We could have the most experienced side in the world at the World Cup, but whether they’ve got that will to go that extra 10 per cent and find that discretionary effort, that’s something I’m trying to find out at the moment.”

‘A chance to change perception’: Successful spring tour would mean more than usual for Wallabies

The four veterans had missed Jones’ initial 45-man squad, of which Lynagh was a member.

“I feel they need to regenerate and rejuvenate,” Jones said. “They need to add things to their game if they’re going to continue to the next World Cup.”

Owen Farrell was named captain despite quaestions over his place at scrumhalf, while Ford’s absence gives Marcus Smith a chance to make the No.10 shirt his own.

The 22-year-old is one of the most exciting talents emerging in world rugby and won his first two caps against the United States and Canada in July.

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“It’s a very young, but a very good squad,” Jones said. “It’s a good balance to have and we want competition for places. We’ve had a pretty settled team for the last three years and we’ve drawn the line in the sand after the Lions series. We’re looking to produce a younger squad ready for the World Cup.”

England squad for autumn Tests:

Forwards: Jamie Blamire (Newcastle), Callum Chick (Newcastle), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Tom Curry (Sale), Trevor Davison (Newcastle), Nic Dolly (Leicester), Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins), Charlie Ewels (Bath), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jonny Hill (Exeter), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), George Martin (Leicester), Sam Simmonds (Exeter), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol), Will Stuart (Bath), Sam Underhill (Bath)

Backs: Mark Atkinson (Gloucester), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Tommy Freeman (Northampton), George Furbank (Northampton), Max Malins (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Raffi Quirke (Sale), Adam Radwan (Newcastle), Harry Randall (Bristol), Henry Slade (Exeter), Marcus Smith (Harlequins), Freddie Steward (Leicester), Manu Tuilagi (Sale), Anthony Watson (Bath), Ben Youngs (Leicester).

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