Manawatu Turbos prop Michael Alaalatoa will add some strength and bulk to the BNZ Crusaders’ front row next season, having signed up for 2016.

Alaalatoa was in the Waratahs squad in 2014 and 2015, however he made the move to New Zealand this year to gain more playing time during the ITM Cup and push for a Super Rugby contract here.  The move has paid off, with his performances for the Manawatu Turbos gaining the attention of Crusaders forwards coach Dave Hewett.

“We’ve been keeping a close eye on the options at tighthead prop since Nepo Laulala’s decision to shift to the Chiefs, and Michael has been one who has really stood out,” Hewett said. 

“He’s put in some impressive performances for the Turbos and, importantly, has really grown across the season.  It’s obvious that he is working hard on his game and is ambitious and determined to succeed.  That’s what really attracted us to him, he already has an impressive physical demeanour but he also has a great attitude.”

With Tim Perry also out for the first part of the 2016 Super Rugby season after injuring his ACL while playing for Tasman in the ITM Cup, the opportunity is there for Alaalatoa to fight for a spot.

“We’ve talked to Michael already about the opportunity that is there for him and the fact that the opportunities are not just on the playing field – it’s about how he trains and prepares every week.  He has embraced that challenge and we know that he is committed to continuing to grow his game to step up to the next level,” Hewett said. 

Rugby is in Alaalatoa’s blood, with his father having represented Samoa in the 1991 Rugby World Cup as a tighthead prop, and his younger brother Allan playing at prop for the Brumbies. 

He was born and raised in Sydney, where he played three years in his high school First XV, then made his way through the ranks in the New South Wales Shute Shield.  He represented Samoa at Under 20 level in the 2011 IRB Junior World Rugby Championship and played for the NSW Country Eagles in the Australian National Championship in 2014.  He was also picked up by the Waratahs that year and earned his first Super Rugby cap in the final game of that season.

Alaalatoa said he was thrilled to receive the call up from the BNZ Crusaders and excited about making the move to Christchurch to join the team.

“I have moved to New Zealand this year in the hope of improving my game and gaining a Super Rugby contract, so to have achieved that with the BNZ Crusaders is a dream come true.  The Crusaders have produced some of the best props in the world in recent years, so I know that I am going to the right place to learn and improve.  I can’t wait to join the team and start preparing for the season ahead,” Alaalatoa said.

The full BNZ Crusaders squad for 2016 will be announced on Wednesday 28 October.