Wild Knights announces two Japan-qualified signings

Wild Knights announces two Japan-qualified signings

Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights announced two new signings on Monday as Robbie Deans aims to take the club to a fourth consecutive League One final in 2024-2025. 


The Wild Knights finished the regular season unbeaten before suffering an agonising defeat in the final to Toshiba Brave Lupus on 26 May in front of a record-breaking 56,000 fans at the National Stadium in Tokyo.


Deans has swooped for two shrewd summer moves in Japan-qualified number eight Viliami Afu Kaipouli who will join from Mie Honda Heat and Kintetsu Liners wing Joshua Nohra who moves from Osaka to Saitama. 


With both players being eligible for Japan, it means they are registered as Category A players and therefore their arrival has no impact on the club’s limited quota of international Test players with their ranks including Springboks star Damian de Allende and Australian ace Marika Koroibete.


(Teams can only register three Category C players - capped by a country other than Japan - for a matchday squad)


Tonga-born Kaipouli (above - right), 26, joined Honda after graduating from Nippon Bunri University in Oita in 2020.


The 6ft 2in powerhouse, who first moved to New Zealand in 2015 and played at Hastings Boys High School before coming to Japan, made his breakthrough in the inaugural League One season when he scored seven tries in 11 games. 


Kaipouli said: “First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to play rugby with the wonderful team, Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.


“I am looking forward to playing rugby with my teammates, staff, and fans of the Wild Knights.”


The Brave Blossoms hopeful added: “I will do my best in everything I do so that I can become a player who can contribute to the team as soon as possible.”


Australia-born Nohra (below) scored four tries this season for the Liners who were relegated to the second tier after losing to Urayasu D-Rocks in both legs of the relegation/promotion play-off. 


The 27-year-old, who started his senior career with Honda Heat, was a fixture at the Liners from 2019-2024. 


Nohra, a graduate of St. Patrick's College Western Sydney University, has made 35 League One appearances and, like his new teammate Kaipouli, qualifies for Japan on residency grounds. 


“I couldn't be more excited or happy to be joining the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights, who have been the best club on and off the field over the past several seasons,” said the coveted winger who can also play at full-back.  


“I'm also really looking forward to working with and for Robbie Deans and the rest of the coaching staff at the Wild Knights, as I know they can help me continue to improve my game.”


Pictures courtesy of Mie Honda Heat and Kintetsu Liners


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