New Scarlets signing Sione Kalamafoni wants to revive memories of the great Scott Quinnell by proving worthy of the former No. 8’s position in the team.
The back-row forward moved to West Wales from Leicester Tigers in the summer and has been named in the Scarlets starting XV to take on Toulon in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup at the Stade Felix Mayol on Saturday night – a clash that is live on S4C.
In his three seasons at Welford Road the 32-year-old made an incredible 721 carries – that’s 87 more than the next best player in Premiership rugby during that time, while he also made 629 tackles.
Those are the sort of stats head coach Glenn Delaney will be hoping Kalamafoni can hit at for the Scarlets as the Tongan international looks to get his new region on the front foot.
“Growing up I knew about the Scarlets and I had a lot of respect for Scott Quinnell who was one of the top number eights around,” says Kalamafoni.
“His are big boots to fill but, hopefully, I can bring something close to what he did for the club.
“I’ll bring a high work rate to the squad and I can bring some extra physicality both sides of the ball.
“I would like to pride myself on my ball-carrying and physicality. As a back-rower, your work rate has got to be top notch and you have to carry hard which is what I love doing.
“I love the physical side of the game and I pride myself on getting over the gain-line and making an impact. I think I can bring something different to the other players and I want to help the Scarlets be successful.”
On the strength of the Scarlets back-row resources, Kalamafoni added: “I’ve been really impressed with the talent we’ve got here in the back-row.
“I knew there’d be a lot of competition and there’s quality throughout the squad. We just need to use those qualities in the game on Saturday and I have every confidence we will do that.
“Toulon will be very physical as they have some big boys in their forwards. We have to match them physically and more to get on top of them because otherwise it will be a dog fight.
“Hopefully, we can match them physically and mentally. This game will go to the wire and we need to really front up.
Toulon may not have the star-studded cast of years gone by, but they still have quality throughout their team and huge experience with the likes of Italian legend Sergio Parisse.
“It will be a hell of a tough battle in the back-row because they’ve got some serious class and power there with guys like Facundo Isa and Sergio Parisse,” says Kalamafoni.
“This is an exciting time for us because these European knockout games are really special.
“There’s a big prize at the end of it but first we’ve got an extremely tough challenge ahead of us with Toulon. but I’m confident.”
A veteran of the 2011 World Cup, Kalamafoni moved to Parc y Scarlets in July and says he was eager to sample Welsh rugby.
“Scarlets were the first side who came in for me when I was out of contract at Leicester.
“My agent found the Scarlets and I had worked with Glenn Delaney in the past when I was at Nottingham, which was my first professional club.
“When the Scarlets came up it was a no-brainer to reconnect with him. I knew Scarlets are a very good team who play an expansive style of rugby.”
S4C – Saturday, 8.00pm: Rygbi Cwpan Her Ewrop – Toulon v Scarlets
Live coverage of Toulon v Scarlets, in the quarter finals of the European Challenge Cup, from the Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon.
S4C – Saturday, 11.00pm: Rygbi Cwpan Her Ewrop – Bristol v Dragons
Highlights from Bristol Bears v Dragons.