Vale­tini, 17, Signs Su­per Rugby Con­tract

Fiji Sun - - Sport - LEONE CABENATABUA SUVA Feed­back: leonec@fi­jisun.com.fj

A17-year-old Fi­jian for­ward has signed a Su­per Rugby con­tract straight out of school. Rob Vale­tini, who had im­pressed for the Rebels Un­der-20s this sea­son be­fore be­ing snatched up by the Brumbies for 2017. Vale­tini was among the names Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham has re­leased for next year’s Su­per Rugby sea­son, as the play­ers re­turned to train­ing this week. Valen­tini, who stands 193cm and weighs 113kg, will be­come just the sec­ond school­boy to play in the NRC, af­ter Nick Jooste played for the Perth Spirit in 2015 while in year 12. Like Jooste, Valen­tini is also headed to Can­berra af­ter he was re­cently snapped up by the Brumbies on a two-year con­tract. To un­der­line just how big a prospect Valen­tini is re­garded, he is only the sec­ond for­ward to sign a full Su­per Rugby con­tract while at school. The first was Luke Jones, who joined the Force af­ter fin­ish­ing year 12 ex­ams. Even David Po­cock and Michael Hooper were ini­tially only signed to academy deals, al­though both made de­buts in their first years at the Brumbies and Force re­spec­tively.

Valen­tini trained with the Rebels main squad last sum­mer and spent a week train­ing at the Brumbies in his last school hol­i­days. He will be soon joined by fel­low coun­try­men Henry Speight and Te­vita Kuridrani who are cur­rently on tour with the Wal­la­bies. Larkham will lead a team that is head­lined by 13 Wal­la­bies as well as Ar­gentina scrum-half Tomás Cubelli, who re­turns for a sec­ond sea­son.

“We have a good mix of lo­cal, in­ter­state and in­ter­na­tional play­ers in our squad,” Larkham told the Brumbies.

“It’s a good mix of ex­pe­ri­ence and youth­ful en­ergy, and it’s go­ing to be a great op­por­tu­nity for us to show who we are, why we are here and what we want to achieve. Last week we started our pre-sea­son pro­gramme, and over the next cou­ple of months, lead­ing into our pre­sea­son games in late Jan­uary, the play­ers will work hard to im­prove their fit­ness, de­velop their skills, find their com­bi­na­tion, and be­come a bet­ter team.” Whilst the Brumbies have named a strong squad for the 2017 sea­son, the ac­qui­si­tion phase is not yet com­plete with the team still search­ing for a spe­cial­ist in the num­ber 10 po­si­tion.

“It’s no se­cret that we are still look­ing at our op­tions around the num­ber ten po­si­tion,” in­terim CEO Phil Thomson said. “The coach­ing staff have their eye on a num­ber of po­ten­tial can­di­dates for the up­com­ing sea­son. Those play­ers will get their op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­press the coaches dur­ing pre-sea­son.” As well as the core group of Aus­tralian stars, in­clud­ing Kuridrani, Scott Sio, Rory Arnold, Scott Fardy, Ben Alexan­der, Henry Speight, Josh Mann-Rea, Sam Carter, Saia Fainga’a, An­thony Fainga’a, Chris­tian Leali­ifano and Al­lan Alaala­toa, the squad also con­tains plenty of lo­cal tal­ent. Prop Faalelei Sione from Roy­als, in­side cen­tre Jor­dan Jack­son-Hope (Tug­ger­a­nong) and scrum-half Ryan Lon­er­gan (Tug­ger­a­nong) have made the step-up to the elite level and will be push­ing hard for game time. New­com­ers to the group in­clude the re­turn of the Fainga’a twins to the club where they started their pro­fes­sional ca­reer, prop Nic May­hew from the Blues, full-back Tom Banks (Queens­land), flanker Chris Al­cock, who joins from the Force along­side highly promis­ing cen­tre Kyle God­win, who made his Wal­la­bies de­but against France on the

week­end, and Aus­tralian Sevens Star Tom Cu­sack.

Brumbies squad for 2017: For­wards: Al­lan Alaala­toa, Ben Alexan­der, Les­lie Leu­lua’iali’i-Makin, Nic May­hew, Scott Sio, Faalelei Sione, Rob­bie Abel, Saia Fainga’a, Josh Mann-Rea, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Blake En­ever, Tom Stan­i­forth, Chris Al­cock, Jarrad But­ler, Tom Cu­sack, Lolo Fakaosilea, Scott Fardy, Ben Hyne, Jor­dan Smiler, Rob Vale­tini. Backs: Tomás Cubelli, Ryan Lon­er­gan, Joe Pow­ell, An­thony Fainga’a, Kyle God­win, Jor­dan Jack­son-Hope, Nick Jooste, Chris­tian Leali­ifano, Nigel Ah Wong, James Dar­gav­ille, Te­vita Kuridrani, An­drew Smith, Henry Speight, Lausii Tali­auli, Tom Banks, Ai­dan Toua Edited by Paula Tu­vuki

Photo: Daily Tele­graph

Rob Vale­tini, (left) with head­band leads the Mel­bourne Ris­ing U20 side. He is now signed up for the Brumbies.

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