THE Axe-man has finally arrived at Sale Sharks – and boss Steve Diamond couldn’t be happier.
After a frustrating wait, explosive Kiwi flanker Onasai Auva’a has at last linked up with his new team-mates and is set to be in the selection mix for Friday’s crucial Premiership home clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Back in his native New Zealand, Auva’a earned the nickname Axe thanks to his guitar playing exploits – so much so that he has even released his own single called We Made It. However, having finally arrived in Manchester, Auva’a is hoping to make sweet music on the pitch.
For his part Diamond has already been hugely impressed with Auva’a’s impact in training just days after his arrival. “We can already tell from training that he looks a hell of a player,” the Sale executive director of sport told the MEN. “He’s a Super 15 player and will bring even more quality to our back row.”
Though originally signed on a short-term loan partly as cover up until February for the injured Hendre Fourie, the 26-year old – who has jetted over with his wife and new baby son – revealed he is hoping to press his case for a longer-term Edgeley Park contract.
“I am just so excited to be here – to have signed up with Sale is such a great feeling,” he revealed. “It’s a big family decision and I have moved over with my family and our new son. I’m on a trial period which is really good and I know Sale wouldn’t want to invest in someone who doesn’t perform. It pushes me to the edge and to take every opportunity that comes my way and I’m hoping to extend my contract in three months time and stay for longer. I’m going to try and put up my hand and whatever opportunity I get I’m going to try and take it.
“There’s been a really warm welcome since we arrived and I’m loving the training and the environment its a really good complex they have got here and I’m really looking forward to playing for the Sharks. I hadn’t followed the Aviva Premiership too much before but once I signed for Sale, I started reading up the results and followed them on the TV to see how they were doing. The European style of rugby is a lot different from back home but it’s enjoyable and I’ve already found the guys are a lot more fitter over here than back home.”
Though the deal to secure his signature was confirmed back in late September, Auva’a revealed family issues had delayed his 12,000-mile flight to the UK.
“We had a baby boy, James. He’s two months old now and we wanted to wait until he was six weeks old and it was safe before we made the flight,” added Auva’a who won a gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games as part of New Zealand’s Sevens side.
“Had it been a four or five-hour trip that would have been fine but given it was a 32-hour trip on a plane we wanted to make sure his immune system was right. Then we had to wait for my visa to be sorted but we’re just so happy to be here now. Hopefully I can bring with me some of the skills I learnt back home in New Zealand. I’m a true fetcher of the ball and like to get turnovers and I think I can bring that element over here along with my speed. I also want to try and bring a bit of humour to the team as well.”
However, Sale’s preparations for the Exeter clash were marred yesterday by in Diamond’s words ‘a horrendous injury’ suffered in training by hooker Joe Ward, who split open his heel after catching a stray stud just as Tuesday’s training session was wrapping up.
Ironically, the former Wasps man had only just returned to full fitness after a niggling calf problem and would have played against the Chiefs. With a question mark over how long he will now be sidelined, Diamond was set to dip into the transfer market immediately for an emergency hooker whom he can bringing in immediately.