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New boy Afoa hails Ulster’s rising stars

By Niall Crozier

Newly-signed Auckland Blues and New Zealand prop John Afoa can’t wait to get his Ulster career under way.

The 28 times-capped 27-year-old All Black, whose hugely impressive CV includes 86 Super Rugby appearances, will be joining Ulster on a two-and-a-half year contract as soon as the World Cup ends.

Afoa said: “I’ve been part of the Blues’ family for my entire career so far and so, when the opportunity to look at a move came up, I felt that period post-World Cup would be the perfect time.

“I’ve done my research and can’t help but be impressed at how the Ulster squad is developing. There seems to be a good mix of local and overseas players and I’m very much looking forward to playing my part in that.

“I want to challenge myself and the northern hemisphere style of play will certainly offer me that. Most of the players moving north state the chance to participate in the Heineken Cup as one of the key factors in their decision and the same is true for me.

“But since the possibility of a move came up I’ve also caught some of the Magners League and that looks like a competition that is going from strength to strength.”

Clearly looking forward to moving to Northern Ireland he added: “From what I hear, the Ulster people seem to have a similar outlook as Kiwis and I’ve been told that I can expect a warm welcome when I arrive in Belfast.

“I have a young family who will be making the move with me and while the opportunity to experience a new culture and way of life will be a wonderful experience for all of us, it’s nice to know that we won’t feel too far away from home.”

Ulster’s Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, who negotiated the deal, hailed Aofa’s recruitment of as “a major coup”.

“We have deliberately looked for high quality, international players in key positions and in John, we believe we’ve got it absolutely right. He’s a hugely talented player, both at set piece and in the loose, and he will bring a huge amount of Super Rugby and international experience to Ulster,” Humphreys said.

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