Leicester bolster forward stocks

Date published: August 7 2017

Leicester Tigers have signed Tongan international Valentino Mapapalangi and USA international Chris Baumann for the 2017/18 season.

At 6ft 4in tall and weighing 17st 9lb, the 24-year-old Mapapalangi is a physical presence in attack and defence from the back row and has gained experience in New Zealand with Auckland, Waikato, Chiefs and Manawatu.

An exciting talent in Tongan rugby, he earned his first international selection during 2016 and started the Test against Wales this summer.

Mapapalangi, 24, will link up with the Tigers squad in the coming days, subject to visa.

Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor, who worked with the Tonga national squad during 2016, welcomed Mapapalangi to the club, and said: “Valentino is a very talented young player with a lot of potential to grow and develop with us.

“He is a physical player on both sides of the ball, a strong ball-carrier and can provide us with a useful option in the forward pack.

“We’re looking forward to bringing him in during pre-season and working with him ahead of the 2017/18 programme.”

Mapapalangi will join fellow Tonga internationals Telusa Veainu and Sione Kalamafoni at Welford Road.

Baumann, who has 20 international appearances, earned his first cap against Tonga in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup and made three appearances in the Rugby World Cup that year, scoring his first Test try against Samoa.

The 30-year-old has extensive experience in American club rugby as well as playing for Wellington Lions in New Zealand last year.

He adds to a group of props at Tigers that includes internationals Dan Cole, Ellis Genge, Michele Rizzo, Logovi’i Mulipola, Greg Bateman and Pat Cilliers.

Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor said: “We have a very strong group of front rows at the club and we’re delighted to be able to add another international prop to that group.

“Chris is highly-regarded and will provide even more competition in an already competitive position.

“He has been highly recommended to us and I am sure he will develop even further with us in our environment.”

Baumann said: “I was very impressed with everything I heard about Leicester, the club, the history, the support, and it was an easy decision to make to move to Premiership Rugby.

"I’m looking forward to the challenge of pre-season and playing my part in the squad.”

Tigers have already announced the signings of fly-half duo George and Joe Ford, wingers Jonah Holmes and Nick Malouf, centre Gareth Owen and back-rowers Kalamafoni and Dominic Ryan.