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'I might give hurling a go' - Connacht star tempted to follow Duffy into GAA

New Zealand forward George Naoupu joked about a new sporting direction while backing his former teammate to succeed with Mayo.

George Naoupu in action against Leinster this season.
George Naoupu in action against Leinster this season.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

GAVIN DUFFY’S SWITCH from Connacht Rugby fullback to training with the Mayo football panel has captured the imagination of his former teammates.

While Adrian Flavin dusted off his two Great Britain Minor Championship medals (won with London in the late 1990s), George Naoupu is contemplating a phone-call to Galway hurling manager Anthony Cunningham.

He told TheScore.ie: “I’m not as good under the high ball as Gavin so the football may not suit me. Hurling is my sport. I love any game with a stick and ball so would give it a try. Galway is my home now so I might see if they need players.”

Naoupu is delighted that Duffy, released by Connacht at the beginning of May, has moved on so quickly. “It sounds like a great opportunity for Gavin and, from what I’ve heard, he is doing well,” he said. “He will be sadly missed here as he is through-and-through Connacht. He was a great leader and a truly committed player. He will take those talents into GAA and it would be awesome if he makes the team.”

After a ‘disappointing finish’ to 2013/14, Naoupu is travelling home to New Zealand for a summer break. While he is there, he hopes to fit in one of Ireland U20′s Junior World Championship games. “Jake [Heenan] is heading over to watch the Connacht lads in action and I will try get along to a game,” he said. “It is great to see that Ireland are being led by Sean O’Brien, who has recovered well from his leg injury.”

The Kiwi theme will continue next season at The Sportsround as Bundee Aki, Tom McCartney and Mils Muliaina arrive. Naoupu admits he has seen McCartney play ‘a few times on TV’ and is less in the loop about Aki. As for 100-times capped All Black Muliaina, the forward is well aware of his talents.

Israel Dagg, Jerome Kaino, Mils Muliaina and Dan Carter with the Webb Ellis Cup Muliaina (second right) holds the World Cup trophy in 2011. Source: INPHO/Photosport/Andrew Cornaga

He said, “The profile of the team has been bolstered by Mils’ signing. His leadership skills and his footballing abilities will set a platform for the young players to aspire towards. He will be eager, I’m sure, to come to the west and end his career on a high.”

Connacht coach Pat Lam has spoken about his players needing to gain big game experience so he will watch Ireland’s tour to Argentina closely. Robbie Henshaw may add Test caps four and five in the No.13 jersey recently vacated by Brian O’Driscoll while Kieran Marmion will push Conor Murray for a start at scrum-half. Naoupu said:

Ireland have picked a very strong squad and it says a lot, for them, that the two boys are in it. Kieran has come through a tough year, with his father’s illness and playing through a bad stomach bug against Toulouse. He is an extremely strong character and I don’t doubt he will be a big star for Ireland.”

Naoupu, and his wife, Sene, are backing a charity fundraiser, We’re Planking It, in Galway this summer. The pair have joined forces with five charities to organise a Guinness World Record attempt at Galwegians RFC’s grounds. The goal is to get more than 250 people to hold the abdominal plank position for 60 seconds.

*For more information visit the fundraiser’s Facebook page.

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Patrick McCarry

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