Heard last night that Afoa would be here for the weekend and was just starting to prepare our second scoop in as many days when old UR go and beat us to the punch – rushing this one out as soon as Afoa boarded the plane in New Zealand!
New Zealand World Cup winner John Afoa will arrive in Belfast this week (Wednesday).
Ulster Rugby announced last March that Afoa would be joining the club on a two and a half year contract following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup and will be included in the Ulster match day squad for this Saturday’s game against Connacht at Ravenhill, kick off 5.35pm.
Since joining the Auckland Blues in 2004, Afoa has made over 100 Super Rugby appearances. He has represented New Zealand at School, U19 and U21 levels and in 2005 he made his senior debut for New Zealand against Ireland. His most recent international appearance was against Argentina in the Rugby World Cup on 16th October when the All Blacks triumphed 33-10.
Afoa played a backup role throughout the World Cup so any fears that he is being rushed into the team should be laid to rest as games are exactly what he needs, though I would be surprised if he’s scheduled to do more than 30 minutes in his first outing agaisnt Connacht.
It’s going to be a big ask for the Kiwi to adapt from a style of play best described as a cross between a blocker in American football with basketball type offloads to the more “earthy” type of forward play demonstrated by Ulster, and, with so many key games in November, it may already be too late for our new arrivals to impact on our competitve season.
In my book it still has to be a case of our existing squad standing up and after some apaulingly bad forward play over the last four matches there can be no better news than the return of Irish internationals Rory Best and Stephen Ferris who are named along with Afoa in the extended squad.
The Ulster starting XV and replacements will be named on Friday.
FORWARDS: Tom Court, John Afoa, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Callum Black, Nigel Brady, Rory Best, Johann Muller, Tim Barker, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Neil McComb, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack, Mike McComish, Pedrie Wannenburg, Willie Faloon, Stephen Ferris
BACKS: Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, Paddy Wallace, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy, Simon Danielli, Adam D’Arcy