SAMOAN international Misi Taulapapa is set to go straight into the Sheffield Eagles team after making a dramatic return to the UK.
Taulapapa flew in from New Zealand on Saturday ending a nightmare of months of delay in getting his UK visa renewed. He was driven straight from Manchester Airport to link up with the Eagle’ squad before the Challenge Cup match against St Helens.
“It’s been a long time waiting for the visa and it was a bad time for me,” said Taulapapa. “It was good to get back in time to see the game.”
Eagles coach Mark Aston said: “When Misi walked into the changing room just before the game it did a lot for the guys and he was part of what we did at Saints.
“He will be a big part of what we do for the rest of the season because he’s quality.”
Aston added: “We’d have loved to have had him out there against Saints but there was no way he could play after the flight from New Zealand.”
Taulapapa’s return after missing the first 12 games sets a selection poser for Aston if he is to bring him in at fullback. Fellow Samoan international Quentin Laulu-Togagae has been filling that role and scored a hat-trick of tries in the 52-26 defeat at St Helens – but can also play at half-back.
Taulapapa’s last game for the Eagles was at Leigh Centurions in September – who are the visitors to Bramall Lane on Sunday. He broke his ankle in that game but has been playing for a team in Auckland as he waited for his UK visa. “The ankle is coming on all right, I’ve been playing for the past four weeks and gone through every game which I’m quite happy with and I hope to play at the weekend,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough to get in the team, Quentin’s had a great start to the season and I’ll have to up my game.”
St Helens have a home game against Featherstone Rovers, coached by former Eagles star Daryl Powell in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup.