BOSTON – October 15, 2020 – The New England Free Jacks are thrilled to announce the return of the barnstorming Poasa Waqanibau through the 2022 Major League Rugby season. The 6’2”, 230-lb Fijian possesses a well-rounded skillset and is equally comfortable both on the wing or in the centers, terrifying opposition defenses from both positions during the shortened 2020 MLR campaign.
“I can’t wait to return to New England with my brothers,” commented Waqanibau. “New England is my second home and the team has become like family for me. I’m excited to ramp my game up another notch and I hope JP [John Poland] can continue to put me in space next season.”
The second oldest of four siblings, Waqanibau hails from Kuku in Tailevu, Fiji. A standout rugby player at Ratu Kadavulevu School, Poasa earned selection to the Fijian Under-20 National Team for the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand (NZ). In the leadup to the tournament, Waqanibau’s mother sold pudding to pay for her son’s rugby boots and bus fares to and from U-20 training sessions.
His mother’s dedication would soon pay off; Waqanibau’s impressive performances in World Rugby’s top age-grade competition caught the eye of selectors for Border RFC in Wanganui, NZ. Waqanibau’s fine form continued upon his move to New Zealand, as he was the top try scorer for Border RFC in the 2015 Wanganui Premier Club competition.
From there, Waqanibau was swiftly signed by Canterbury in the NPC (now Mitre 10 Cup) – New Zealand’s top domestic competition. Waqanibau was an integral member of Canterbury’s championship-winning 2016 campaign and continued to play for the side during the 2017 season. During his spell on the South Island, Waqanibau also earned selection for the Crusader Knights, the development team of Super Rugby’s most-dominant side. In 2018, Waqanibau returned home to play with the Fijian Drua in Australian Rugby’s premier domestic competition, the National Rugby Championship (NRC).
In 2019, following his season with the Drua, Waqanibau signed his first Free Jacks contract, making his Free Jack debut on the wing against Rugby United New York (RUNY) in the opening match of the 2020 MLR Season. Waqanibau would go on to start in all five of the Free Jacks’ games prior to the season’s premature cancellation, including two starts at outside center.
Waqanibau’s power, pace, and creativity were on full display as a standout performer for the Free Jacks in 2020. The big Fijian scored two tries, broke the gainline on more than two-thirds of his carries, and regularly set up his teammates with silky skills and highlight-reel offloads.
Waqanibau was a leader on defense for the Free Jacks, exhibiting his strength in the contact area and perhaps most memorably, knocking the wind out of Mathieu Bastareaud’s sails with an earth-shaking tackle early on in the match against Rugby United New York.
“Poasa was a pleasure to have in the organization in 2020,” commented Free Jacks Performance Manager, Tom Kindley. “His smile is contagious and I don’t think there’s a better duo in Major League Rugby than Poasa and John Poland. Obviously he has a massive frame for a centre/wing making him a devastating ball carrier, but to compliment that, he has a classy skill-set and innate ability to see the game unfold in front of him and make effective decisions. I think we are only beginning to see what he is capable of and have no doubt 2021 will be a great year for him.”
With Poasa’s contract running through the end of 2022, Free Jacks fans can be excited at the prospect of the flying Fijian continuing to light up MLR for years to come.
Join Poasa and the Free Jacks for a virtual Town Hall “News and Brews,” on October 15. Grab a Free Jacks IPA, join the virtual gathering and get to know the newest Free Jacks and the returning players. RSVP using the link here: https://freejacks.com/news-and-brews/.
About The Free Jacks: The Free Jacks are an aspiring and innovative live events, media, and consumer products organization. The core brand in the portfolio is The New England Free Jacks–the humble hard-working free-spirited professional rugby team competing in the emergent and exhilarating Major League Rugby (MLR), the premier North American professional rugby competition. For more information please visit www.FreeJacks.com