West out to get one over former club La Rochelle
TOP 14 PREVIEW: Toulon centre Duncan Paia’aua said team-mate and former La Rochelle flyhalf Ihaia West is helping his new outfit to “get the jump on” his former side before they meet in the French Top 14 on Sunday.
Former Maori All Blacks playmaker West, 30, won the European Champions Cup and was a Top 14 runner up during his four years at Stade Marcel-Deflandre before switching the Atlantic for the Mediterranean in the summer.
West is one of three former La Rochelle players now down south, including prop Dany Priso and back row Mathieu Tanguy.
“He’s [West] led a lot of the meetings this week, about how they play, and how we can try and get the jump on them,” Paia’aua told AFP on Wednesday.
“Some of the other former La Rochelle boys have been talking about it for a couple of weeks now, they’re really eager to beat their old club,” he added.
Midfielder Paia’aua was born in New Zealand to Samoan parents before moving to Australia aged three. He left for to the Cote d’Azur in 2019, four years after Toulon had lifted their third straight European Cup.
The club’s galacticos during the trophy-ladden period included former Rugby World Cup winners Jonny Wilkinson and Bryan Habana.
“The people in the town still talk about those players back then, Wilkinson, Habana,” 27-year-old Paia’aua said.
“The history and all the players that have played here is unbelievable,” he added.
Last week Paia’aua was named in Samoa’s squad for the November Tests against Italy, Georgia and Romania, for the first time.
He played a non-capped game for the Wallabies in 2017 and was a part of Dave Rennie’s training squad this year.
Due to Australia’s selection rules about individuals based abroad Paia’aua would have had to return to the country to play domestically to feature for Rennie’s Test side.
“I really love it at Toulon, I really didn’t want to go back to Super Rugby,” Paia’aua said.
“It made my decision a lot easier. My father also always used to put pressure on me every year to put my hand up to play for Samoa. That had a big hand in it too,” he added.
World Cup ‘goal’
In less than 12 months’ time, the Pacific Islanders will have ended their Rugby World Cup group campaign, a pool alongside England, Argentina, Japan and Chile.
“My goal for the last couple of years has been to make the World Cup side and play in it,” Paia’aua said.
“Hopefully I can impress the coaches on this tour.
“Even better that the World Cup’s in France,” he added
This weekend, Paia’aua and Toulon, second in the table after just two losses this season, will come up against 145kg-lock Will Skelton, who he has come across during their time with Australia.
“He moves for his size as well,” said Paia’aua who scored one of the seven tries that Toulon ran in during their 47-0 thrashing of Brive last weekend.
“We’ve been talking a lot about him this week and how we can stop him,” he added.
Brive, meanwhile, are out of the frying and into the fire as they host table-toppers Toulouse who are expected to welcome Argentina three-quarter Juan Cruz Mallia back into the squad after his time away with the Pumas.
Former England wing Christian Wade, who scored on his Top 14 debut against Pau last week, is expected to make the starting line-up for Racing 92 when they head to Bordeaux while champions Montpellier host Lyon.
Fixtures(Kick-off times are GMT)
Saturday, October 15
Brive v Toulouse (13.00)
Perpignan v Clermont (15.00)
Castres v Bayonne (15.00)
Montpellier v Lyon (15.00)
Pau v Stade Francais (15.00)
Bordeaux-Begles v Racing 92 (19.05)
Sunday, October 16
La Rochelle v Toulon (19.05)