New signings are settling in at Saints

Nafi Tuitavake (picture: Dave Ikin)
Nafi Tuitavake (picture: Dave Ikin)

Saints fans who headed to the Wanderers’ clash with Wasps on Monday night got their first glimpse of the club’s newest recruits.

Api Ratuniyarawa and Nafi Tuitavake arrived at Franklin’s Gardens late last month after leaving Agen and Narbonne respectively.

Api Ratuniyarawa was in action at the Gardens on Monday night

Api Ratuniyarawa was in action at the Gardens on Monday night

Both had been on the Northampton radar for some time, with Jim Mallinder keen to strengthen in the second row and in the centre.

And the new duo fit the bill, with Ratuniyarawa a lofty lock with plenty of bulk and Tuitavake a stylish centre who has experience of playing 
for Super Rugby side Crusaders.

It took Saints time to get their clubs to let go of them, but they are finally here and ready to make their mark in English rugby.

However, there is no doubt that it will take both time to settle, especially if Tuitavake’s early experiences of English breakfasts are anything to go by.

“There was a big tray of scrambled egg and it looked like porridge to me,” the Tonga international explained. “I was scooping that into my bowl and the boys were just watching me.

“They knew what it was and I was putting sugar on. Then I went to eat it and the boys started laughing and I was like ‘what?’

“I had a mouthful and it was then I realised I had scrambled eggs instead of porridge. Then the chef came out and told me that I wasn’t the first and we had a good laugh about it.”

Tuitavake has learned about the food the hard way, but his first experience of life in the green, black and gold wasn’t too tough, as he helped the Wanderers to win 45-10 on Monday night.

It was a low-key encounter, but one the 27-year-old enjoyed, especially coming from the turmoil at his previous club.

“Things weren’t working out at Narbonne – they went through a change in president and things are a shambles over there at the moment,” Tuitavake said.

“But things turned around pretty quick and next thing I knew I was sorting out visas and I was here.

“A lot of things were going wrong at Narbonne – they were getting rid of coaches, getting rid of players.

“The season’s just started and they’re doing all that. I think money problems are the big thing.”

Though life off the field in France was tough, Tuitavake found life on it easy.

He admits he was able to ‘stroll around’ in France’s second tier and is now glad to be back at a high level, saying his early days at Saints have had him ‘sleeping like a baby’.

As well as wanting to step up a level, Tuitavake’s decision to move to Northampton was inspired by the players he knows in the squad.

“When they said the team Northampton, I looked on the internet and the photo of George (Pisi) was loading on the screen,” Tuitavake said.

“I was like ‘Georgie!’, and then I saw Ken (Pisi), Ace (Tuala) and Api, who had just signed here. I played with all of them in New Zealand and thought I might as well come here.

“I’m not too good with fresh starts, so they made the move pretty comfortable for me.”

Tuitavake actually went to high school with Ken Pisi, who describes the new arrival as ‘a ladies’ man’.

But how would Ratuniyarawa describe himself?

“I’m a physical player,” says the 6ft 6in lock. “I think I have a lot to offer to the team.”

Ratuniyarawa certainly put himself about on Monday night, and he helped to set up a first-half score for Howard Packman.

Now it is about continuing to learn Saints’ style of play and developing in England for the Fiji international.

“It’s challenging, arriving at this time in the season,” Ratuniyarawa said.

“I did pre-season back in France with Agen and coming over here when the season has started is challenging.

“I have to learn a lot, keep up with my conditioning and try to be in good form.

“The way we train here is slightly different to France. Here, the tempo of training is really up and really challenging, too.

“Now we turn up for training in the morning and eat with the boys. It helps a lot as a group to stick together and it will help a lot in the games.

“The move here was in the process for a while and I am happy I’m here now and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“There’s a lot of learning for me to do and I just want to do my best.”