Friday 23 February 2018

Afoa confirms exit as he makes surprise switch to Premiership

John Afoa, Ulster
John Afoa, Ulster
David Kelly

David Kelly

John Afoa confirmed departure from Ulster was not a surprise – but his destination next season may raise a few eyebrows.

That the Kiwi World Cup winner may pitch up in the Aviva Premiership next season is a strange turn of events for someone who had roundly admitted that spending time apart from his family had complicated his stint in this part of the world.

Ulster had thus admitted defeat in their attempts to retain the World Cup winning prop beyond next season, while the IRFU might not have been too happy with a re-signing either given their ever-shifting guidelines on non-Irish qualified players.

Nevertheless, Ulster may still be mildly piqued that the Kiwi has now chosen to shuffle across the water, "having signed a long-term deal with an Aviva Premiership club," as an Ulster statement pointedly noted.

Gloucester and Conor O'Shea's Harlequins are the leading likely lads to have secured his services.

Afoa (30) joined Ulster just over two years ago from the Auckland Blues. He made his debut against Connacht in the Pro12 in November 2011 and, in an injury-afflicted time, punctuated by numerous visits to New Zealand, he has made 48 appearances.

"It is good to have my long term future sorted out," said Afoa last night.

"However, I still have a lot of rugby to play with Ulster. I have six months remaining on my contract with the Province and I am focused on helping the guys win something this season."

Irish Independent

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