Crusader Fonotia off to Wales

Kieran Fonotia has signed for the Ospreys

Crusaders back Kieron Fonotia has agreed to leave Christchurch and New Zealand and play in Wales for the Ospreys Rugby Club after the Super Rugby season, subject to a work permit.

The 28-year old, who can play centre or wing, has put pen to paper on a two-year contract and will arrive at the Liberty Stadium later this year.

At 1.86m tall and 108kg, Fonotia has been a regular fixture in a star studded Crusaders back line since making his Super Rugby debut at the start of the 2014 season, scoring a try with his first touch as a 70th minute replacement in a 14-13 win over Stormers.

Fonotia is playing his fourth season with the Crusaders and will complete his sixth season with the Tasman Makos in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup before heading offshore. He says he feels satisfied with what he has achieved here in New Zealand and ready to take on a new challenge at the end of this year.

“I was playing club rugby for New Brighton and working as a tiler when I got called into the Wider Training Group for the Crusaders. It was more than I could have hoped for and I’ve loved every minute in that jersey,” Fonotia said.

“I think I have played for three of the best teams in the world – New Brighton, the Tasman Makos and the Crusaders – so it was not an easy decision to leave all of that behind. But the Ospreys Rugby Club looks like another awesome team that I am sure I am going to enjoy, and when I looked at the options I knew that the timing was right for me to take on a new opportunity overseas. I will give everything to the Crusaders and the Makos in 2016 and leave feeling like I gave it my all and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”

Crusaders Head Coach Todd Blackadder said Fonotia had been an important addition to the team when he came in via the Wider Training Group in 2013.

“We had seen what he was doing for Tasman and we liked what we saw, so we pulled him into our Wider Training Group. However he ended up making his debut early in the season and immediately made an impact, scoring with his first touch of the ball. He has added size, toughness and X factor to our backline. He will be missed next year but we are going to make the most of this final season with Kieron and try and make it one to remember,” Blackadder said.

Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach thanked Fonotia for the contribution he has made, and continues to make: “We never like to see our players move on, but we understand Kieron’s decision and will send him off with our very best wishes. He has made a worthy contribution to this team and organisation and we know that he is determined to make an impact again in 2016 before heading to Wales.”

He wore the number 12 shirt in Crusaders opening game of the 2016 Super Rugby season this weekend, against Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday.

Andrew Millward, Ospreys Rugby General Manager, said:”We are delighted to be able to announce the signing of a player who has made a huge impact in Super Rugby over the last few years alongside some of world rugby’s most exciting backs, and whose versatility will make him a huge asset for us over the coming seasons.

“He will bring a positive mindset and a willingness to challenge defenders with a dynamism and skill set that can grow our game and complement the players around him.

“In particular, his presence will support some of the young athletes that are crucial to our backline succession planning over the next couple of seasons, players who are starting to make an impact at age-grade, Championship and Premiership level, whilst being available through all aspects of a calendar that does challenge us at times.

“However, make no bones about it, he is a quality performer who we feel can add immediate value to the team and develop his own game accordingly, helping us to compete on all fronts. It’s an important signing for Ospreys Rugby, and all supporters should be excited about the prospect of seeing Kieron in an Ospreys shirt next season.”

Fonotia departs at the conclusion of the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup for a two year contract with the Ospreys Rugby Club.

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