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Waratahs snap up potential All Blacks hooker

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Sydney based Super 15 Rugby team the Waratahs have snapped up a potential All Blacks hooker in JP Sauni for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

Auckland born Junior All Blacks forward JP Sauni has been signed by the Waratahs on a development contract.

The 20-year-old says that he agreed the move as the Waratahs “really wanted him” and he will be closer to family.

“The main reason is I want to be at a club that really wants me,” Sauni told AAP.

“The Waratahs have offered me something really positive and will help me develop my rugby to get to where I want to be.

“Secondly, my family is in Melbourne. Being in Sydney it feels like Melbourne is like a two-minute drive.”

Sauni moved to Melbourne with his family when he was 16-years-old and played rugby for the Endeavour Hills club.

The junior All Blacks forward’s career has been helped by his uncle Filipo Saena, who played five-eighth for Samoa at the 1991 World Cup.

Sauni says that after his weight ballooned to 150kg his uncle took charge of his training and whipped him into shape.

“My uncle saw potential and rugby skills at a massive weight,” Sauni said.

“He said how ‘bad do you want to play? What are your goals?’

“I told him I just want to play rugby.

“He gave me his honest opinion. He said ‘if you want to play rugby you have to chop that weight, you are way too heavy’.

“He trained me really hard every day.

“I remember my first session I cried.

“I couldn’t really run at that time and he just kept pushing me.”

Sauni  played for the Melbourne Rebels in the Super Rugby under 20s in 2016 and then returned to New Zealand for a year. He now weighs 104kg.

“My goal is to take it step by step,” Sauni said.

“”The first step was to join the Waratahs and just kick off the pre-season.

“I’m not really thinking further ahead.”

Sauni is still eligible to play Test rugby for Australia, New Zealand and Samoa and is keeping his options open.

“I’ll go to whichever country wants me,” Sauni said.

“All I care about is getting back with my family.”

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