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Iziq Foa’i will bolster Speranza 22 at Dubai Rugby Sevens

Paul Radley writes the Kiwi is looking ahead after missing out on a pro contract.

Rugby player Iziq Foa'i. Courtesy Rory Greene

DUBAI // Iziq Foa’i will try to put months of frustration behind him when he turns out for Speranza 22 in the International Open this weekend, before renewing his pursuit of a professional career at the start of next year.

The Abu Dhabi Harlequins player had looked set for a move to Warrington Wolves, the top-tier English rugby league club, but he was unable to secure a work permit.

“There have been a lot of promises that have fallen through,” Foa’i said. “A lot of the issues have purely been because I have lived here.

Both the English Rugby Football Union and Super League insist on any overseas player moving to England to have played top-tier league before.

“My playing history isn’t in the top tiers,” Foa’i said. “I was promised a contract but everything fell through.”

The former Cambridge School boy had planned to dovetail playing for Warrington with studying at university in England’s north-west.

He has now opted to defer his course for a year, and head to New Zealand, where he is originally from, to play club rugby.

Having struggled with a knee injury sustained playing for UAE Under 20s at the start of the season, he will return to the playing field with Speranza 22 at The Sevens.

His availability will bolster a side that is slightly changed from its previous incarnations.

The team meet for an annual reunion at The Sevens in memory of their former Abu Dhabi Harlequins teammate Marco Speranza, who died in an air crash in his native Argentina in 2013.

Twelve months ago, they almost produced one of the fairy tales of the weekend when they were leading in the final of the International Open, only to be denied by a last-play try.

Two of the mainstays from that side are absent this time around. Rodrigo and Ignacio Costa have since signed to play professional club rugby in Italy.

“I should be good for this weekend. Everything is feeling good and I’m happy to play in the Dubai Sevens,” Foa’i said.

“The Costa brothers aren’t coming back, but we have some boys to fill in for them. We have some pace coming in, in terms of lads arriving from the UK.

“I am one of the new boys, but from what I’ve seen of what is in the group, and looking at YouTube highlights, we have a lot to offer.”

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