Rugby: Michelangelo artist in own right

By Anendra Singh

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Magpie lock Michael Allardice (left), and props Jorian Tangaere and Michaelangelo Sosene-Feagai at the Captain's run, McLean Park, Napier. PHOTO/Warren Buckland
Magpie lock Michael Allardice (left), and props Jorian Tangaere and Michaelangelo Sosene-Feagai at the Captain's run, McLean Park, Napier. PHOTO/Warren Buckland

Hawke's Bay rugby hooker Michelangelo Sosene-Feagai's parents named him after the famous Italian artist who died in 1564.

"I was a pretty good artist back in my younger days too," Sosene-Feagai explained after the Hawke's Bay Saracens captain's run at Napier's McLean Park yesterday.

Just like the sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer he is named after did on numerous occasions, Sosene-Feagai, will be hoping to make an impression as the starting hooker for the Saracens against Taranaki at Stratford today. The province's No3 hooker has been given the start as the Magpies pair of Ash Dixon and Ged Robinson complete their post-Super Rugby mandatory rests after their contracts with the Hurricanes and Highlanders respectively.

"Everything has happened so fast during my first season in the Bay. I didn't expect to make the Hurricanes Development team or become the Bay's No3 hooker, an injury away from the Magpies ITM Cup squad. Now I've got this opportunity I want to make the most of it, enjoy it and prove I deserve to be here," Sosene-Feagai said.

What makes the 21-year-old Carters Frame and Truss Taradale rake's rapid rise such a feat is the fact the American-born Samoan was a second five-eighth until switching to the forwards when he arrived in Auckland for his Year 13 studies at Sacred Heart College. And he only took up rugby as a 13-year-old.

Like his Taradale teammate and fellow Hawke's Bay Development squad member, Ezrah Amituanai, Sosene-Feagai, played for the Samoan team which finished ninth at last year's Under-20 World Cup in France.

Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's player development manager Joe Payton was the technical adviser for Samoa and enticed the pair to the Bay.

"I had been Hamilton-based for two years studying environmental planning at Waikato University. Those studies are on hold now while I further my rugby career.

"It's funny ... I always looked up to Ash [Dixon] as the best hooker I watched on television and now I've got the opportunity to play alongside him and learn from him," Sosene-Feagai said.

He pointed out the mobility and skills gained from being in the backs made his switch to the forwards relatively easy. However, Sosene-Feagai knows he has to keep working on improving his defensive play and work rate if he is to remain the Bay's third hooker.

Although he will miss Taradale's final round-robin game against Tamatea today, he will return for next weekend's Maddison Trophy semifinals.

Sosene-Feagai believes his side has the potential to complete a Nash Cup-Maddison Trophy double this season.

Magpies head coach Craig Philpott has been forced to make a late change to his team with prop Adrian Barone withdrawing with a calf strain. Hurricanes wider training group member Brendon Edmonds will replace Barone at loosehead and versatile Clive frontrower Jorian Tangaere will replace Edmonds on the pine.

While all of the Bay's Super players were unavailable for today's match Philpott said several will get game time against Bay of Plenty in Rotorua on Thursday. New Zealand Under-20s lock Geoff Cridge will miss today's game with a groin injury but is expected to be fit for the Bay of Plenty match.

Halfback Ellery Wilson is in a similar situation with a rump muscle niggle. Wilson's place on the subs bench has been taken by Hawke's Bay Development squad member Isaac Paewai.

Philpott has named Havelock North's exciting back three of fullback Ryan Tongia and wingers Trinity Spooner-Neera and Mikey Vuicakau. However, with a soft pitch expected after recent heavy rain in Taranaki, the trio's chances of displaying their classy counter attacking skills may be restricted.

Former Magpies lock Leighton Price will start for Taranaki.

After the game the Magpies squad will go into camp in Rotorua until Thursday's game.

An August 9 match against Waikato at Napier's McLean Park will be the Magpies final rehearsal for their ITM Cup campaign, which begins on August 17 against Tasman in Blenheim.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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