Mafi to play for Force and Australia

15th Aug 2014, 10:51

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Heading home: Steve Mafi

Heading home: Steve Mafi

Leicester back-row Steve Mafi has left England to join the Western Force, with a view to playing for the Wallabies.

Leicester back-row Steve Mafi has left England to join the Western Force, with a view to playing for the Wallabies.

UPDATE: The Force have confirmed that Mafi has signed on a two-year deal.

"It's great to have the opportunity to come back to Australia to play with the Force and be closer to my family," said Mafi.

"I've always had an eye on coming back to play Super Rugby and I'm looking forward to working to get my opportunity next season. The grounds in the UK are heavier than they are in Australia, and I'm looking forward to playing some attacking, running rugby.

"I've followed Super Rugby while I've been away, and the Force has improved a fair bit in the last few years and I can't wait to be able to contribute to that.

"I've played with guys like Wykesy [Sam Wykes], Ben McCalman and Nathan Charles in the Australian U20 squad, so it'll be great to play with them again as well as against a lot of others that I know as well. I played under Foles at the Waratahs too, and it's always good to know the coach wherever you're playing.

"Wykesy's also told me a lot about the culture at the Force and shown me around Perth a bit, and I know it'll all work very well for me."

Head Coach Michael Foley says Mafi will add further potency to an already powerful Western Force pack.

"Our forwards played well this year and the addition of Steve will complement the existing strengths in our pack for next season," he said.

"Steve's growth - both physically and technically - over the last four seasons at Leicester Tigers has been tremendous. He's always been a powerful ball carrier, but has also now developed a good understanding of the tight elements of the game. These attributes place him in a position to challenge for both number six and lock."

Mafi, 24, has had an outstanding stint with the Tigers, winning their Players' Player of the Year Award in 2012.

The athletic forward joined Leicester in 2010 after being cut by the Waratahs, but has flourished in Europe.

Using the heavily discussed Olympics loophole for players that haven't played a Test for 18 months looking to play for another country that they qualify for, the objective is reportedly to have Mafi available to play for the Wallabies by 2016.

Mafi made 85 appearances for Leicester in his four years at Welford Road, scoring 11 tries.

He was granted a lengthy absence of leave last season to return to Australia to support his young family following the complicated birth of his son.