Belgium going back to France
Manu Samoa winger Belgium Tuatagaloa signed a contract with French second division club Rouen Normandie this week that will see him line up for the side next season.
The 30-year-old left the Manu Samoa 7s programme to join London Irish midway through their 2019-20 Premiership Rugby campaign in December, linking up with 2019 Rugby World Cup squadmates Motu Matu’u and TJ Ioane at the English club.
Tuatagaloa made three starts on the wing for the Exiles before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the Premiership to a halt in March.
French club rugby has been a happy hunting ground for him in the past; Tuatagaloa spent three seasons at Valence Romans from 2016 to 2019 in the third division Fédérale 1 competition.
In his final season there, 2018-19, he was the league’s top tryscorer in a campaign that saw Valence finish second and earn promotion to Pro D2.
That form earned Tuatagaloa his first call-up to the Samoan national 15s team, although Valence didn’t want to sign him to a new contract because he would miss the start of the 2019-20 season whilst at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Rouen Normandie were promoted alongside Valence after the 2019 season as Fédérale 1 champions.
They also announced the signing of former Manu Samoa centre Opetera Peleseuma, who debuted for his country in 2016.
The 28-year-old also played at Valence over the last two seasons, having first come to France to sign with Strasbourg.
Tuatagaloa and Peleseuma join fellow Samoan internationals David Lemi and Anthony Perenise at Rouen, while Manu prop Na’ama Leleimalefaga is an assistant coach for the club.
There are a further 11 Samoan internationals plying their trade for Pro D2 clubs including Taiasina Tuifu’a (Grenoble), Maselino Paulino (Mont-de-Marsan), Robert Lilomaiava (Montauban), Senio Toleafoa, Auvasa Faleali’i (both Nevers), Josh Tyrell (Oyonnax), Seilala Lam, Manu Leiataua, Piula Fa’asalele, Genesis Mamea Lemalu (all Perpignan) and Ole Avei (Soyaux Angeloume) all under contract for the current season.