Scottish Rugby will be investing heavily in raw potential if an anticipated deal to bring uncapped Fijian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro to BT Murrayfield and qualify him to wear the thistle under a three year residency rule materialises, it was claimed today.
According to reports the 19st and 6ft 5in powerhouse is ready to quit New South Wales Waratahs at the end of the Super 15 season and join Edinburgh for an annual salary of £175,000 – except that a crucial contract clause states that any deal would be nullified if the Wallabies step in and cap him first.
One ex-Edinburgh District representative who has seen Naiyaravoro in action says time is on the ex-rugby league player’s side and, eventually, he will become a notable asset.
Said Campbell Aitken, a full back for Heriot’s and Boroughmuir in the 1990s but now the New South Wales under-16’s coach after emigrating: “He is far from the finished article and did well in the second tier of rugby league when perhaps you don’t need to make as many decisions as a winger when compared to rugby union.
“He certainly has the size to make an impact but lacks the rugby intuition at the moment to make the kind of statement that perhaps is unfairly expected of him. Due to his size, people expect him to run over people and score every time he touches the ball, which perhaps leads to unfair criticism.
“On the plus side, he is young and will learn quickly.
“Playing in a team that gives him plenty of ball in plenty of space then you would probably see the best of him.”
That last remark suggests the wide open spaces of BT Murrayfield could be ideal for 23-year-old Naiyaravoro to develop his skills and he could prove a fitting replacement for Tim Visser if, as expected, the out-of-contract Scotland winger moves to the English Premiership.
As for becoming one of the SRU’s so-called “project” signings Naiyaravoro knows he already has options elsewhere while keeping cards close to his chest at this stage.
Asked recently about whether he would prefer to turn out for either Australia or Fiji in this year’s World Cup, he said: “I haven’t paid much attention to playing international footy, but when the time comes I’ll make a choice.”
Last month the Fiji Times claimed a move to Scotland was close to a “done deal”.
Despite being effectively a rugby union rookie, Naiyaravoro’s size has seen him compared to one of the game’s all-time greats, Jonah Lomu, and Murrayfield bosses have talked repeatedly about the global marketplace in attempting to justify scouring the globe for individuals whom they seek to make “Scots” on a technicality.
Meanwhile, former Edinburgh defence coach Nick Scrivener is being tipped for the head coach’s job at Waratahs once Michael Cheika concentrates full-time on the Wallabies post. Ex-Glasgow and All Blacks centre Daryl Gibson is front runner.