Saints wing Naiyaravoro ready for battle of the big guns

Taqele Naiyaravoro
Taqele Naiyaravoro

While much will be said about the forward battle at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday, there promises to be plenty of eye-catching action elsewhere on the pitch.

One example of that will come out wide, where the titans are set to clash on Northampton soil.

Saints' very own wrecking ball Taqele Naiyaravoro will be involved in a huge tussle with Lyon's Fijian winger Josua Tuisova.

On the other side, the speedy Tom Collins is set to go up against Noa Nakaitaci.

And those personal encounters will be worth the entrance fee alone this weekend, especially as Naiyaravoro's face lights up at the prospect, showing just how excited he is about the contest that lies in wait.

"They've got two Fijians on the wing and Lyon will be really good," Naiyaravoro said.

"They'll be a lot like Clermont, who we faced last season, and Lyon are top of the Top 14 so there's a reason why they're there.

"But it will be good and it will be good to see how we compare to them.

"We've got the World Cup boys back, a lot of confidence in our squad and it will be really interesting.

"The two Fijian boys Lyon have will be a handful.

"But it's not something I want to shy away from.

"It will be a big challenge for me and I'm excited about it."

Naiyaravoro has gone from strength to strength since arriving at Saints from Super Rugby side the Waratahs last September.

He worked extremely hard during the most recent pre-season to make sure he was more mobile.

And it has paid off, with the 27-year-old having scored four tries in six appearances this season.

"I've had a really good pre-season under my belt, which is something I haven't done in a while so credit goes all back to that," Naiyaravoro said.

"We've done a lot of hard work, I lost a bit of weight and it made it easier to move around, especially with these young boys because it's hard to keep up with them.

"Pre-season really worked out well for me, I got to know the boys well and got to know the style of play we want to play this season.

"It's been working out and the challenge now is to maintain that performance.

"The quality of players we have here is ridiculous.

"We've got Hutch (Rory Hutchinson), who just fell short of the Scotland squad, and we've got Piers Francis coming back.

"We've got a lot of quality players and hopefully I'm quality enough to finish off the tries for them."

Naiyaravoro starred in Gallagher Premiership wins against Saracens, Worcester Warriors and Harlequins, but he wasn't able to enjoy as much success at Bath last Saturday.

Saints lost that game 22-13.

And Naiyaravoro said: "It was a tough day at the office for us.

"The weather didn't really help us at all.

"We knew at half-time that it would be decided whoever made the first mistake and unfortunately it didn't work out for us.

"But we're really comfortable with how we are sitting in the Prem now, we've won three out of four and we can move on to Europe now.

"It's not perfect but it's a great start to the season, despite last weekend's result."

Now all attention turns to Sunday's huge Champions Cup opener against Lyon.

Saints lost all three meetings against French opposition last season as Clermont Auvergne claimed a Challenge Cup hat-trick against Chris Boyd's side.

But Naiyaravoro said: "We learned a lot from playing Clermont last season.

"They were in the Challenge Cup but they were top of the Top 14 as well so it really tested us.

"Lyon will play the same style so we've had a bit of a taste of it.

"Now it's a bigger stage and we want to perform.

"What's not to be excited about?"