Waratahs sign giant prop Nephi Leatigaga after injury crisis

“Playing with a guy like [England and Tigers prop] Ellis Genge, he is unreal and just the way he moves around the pitch, I knew I definitely had to try and get quicker and lighter.”

Leatigaga arrived at the Waratahs three weeks ago, and after recovering from a ankle injury and playing club rugby last weekend, is set to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench for NSW in Auckland – where he was raised – on Saturday.

Nephi Leatigaga on the charge for the Leicester Tigers.

Nephi Leatigaga on the charge for the Leicester Tigers.Credit: Getty

“I always wanted to do a year or two closer to home because the family were feeling pretty homesick,” Leatigaga said. “I was looking at coming back and maybe something back in New Zealand, but I have a lot of family in Australia as well and this was a great opportunity.

“I am looking forward to playing Super Rugby finally, being at home [in Auckland] and in front of family. I have always wanted to play Super Rugby, so this is my chance.”

Taumoepeau said being without Angus Bell (foot), Harry Johnson-Holmes (achilles) and Tetera Faulkner (calf) early in the year had left the Tahs with an inexperienced crop of front-rowers and looking around for a greybeard prop to provide some late-game ballast.

Leatigaga fits the bill perfectly. After coming through the Auckland system, he played in Italy before joining Biarritz in France in 2017. In 2019, he was signed by Leicester, and went on to play 77 Premiership and Champions Cup games for the Tigers, including the club’s 2021 premiership final victory.

“For us, having Tetera, Belly, [Dave] Porecki, Harry Johnson-Holmes is awesome, but if one or more of them is injured, our reserve bench gets quite young really quickly,” Taumoepeau said.

“So it’s a big positive bringing Nephi in. Just having that experience and leadership, someone who knows the dark arts and can fix a situation on the run in the game, that’s so crucial.


“We are under no illusions. He is not just going to snap into Super Rugby mode straight away, and against the Blues this weekend he will get 30 minutes or so and we think he’ll be fine with that.”

Leatigaga said he was confident he could make an immediate impact as a Waratah.

“I have scrummed against an awful lot of world-class props in the UK and in France, and worked under some brilliant coaches as well, like Steve [Borthwick],” he said.

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