CONNACHT HAVE ANNOUNCED the signing of back row Nepia Fox-Matamua ahead of next season.
The 23-year-old will join the province on a two-year contract, having previously worked with Connacht head coach Pat Lam at Auckland in his native New Zealand.
Fox-Matamua began his ITM Cup career with the Kiwi province in 2012, when he played twice. The openside flanker then transferred to North Harbour in 2013, making three appearances, before returning to Auckland last year for two further games.
The former St. Peter’s College back row helped club side University to a Gallaher Shield success in 2014, while he has also featured in sevens rugby.
Lam has previously used his Auckland connections to convince hooker Tom McCartney to join his Connacht project, while high-profile Kiwi pair Mils Muliaina and Bundee Aki have also been persuaded to move to Ireland.
Fox-Matamua is the great-great grandson of legendary Māori rugby player George Nepia, a former All Black who was inducted into the New Zealand sports Hall of Fame.
Intriguingly, Fox-Matamua has played Gaelic football for the Marist Rangers GAA club in Auckland, meaning he already has a sense of the culture he can expect in Ireland. [Thanks to John Griffin for bringing this fact to our attention].
“We’re delighted to be in a position to announce Nepia,” said Lam. “With Willie [Faloon] returning to Ulster, another quality openside flanker was needed for next season’s squad.
“I have worked with Nepia at Auckland. He is a great team man and having captained different sides in his young career, he also possesses excellent leadership qualities.
“Technically he is an out-and-out number seven with natural ball skills that have seen him excel in Sevens rugby as well. I know that he is the type of player and person that will fit in very well to the Connacht community.”