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globalrugbyleague - Mon, 19 Feb 2007 06:00:00 GMT
Thomas Leuluai at 21 years of age has already represented the Kiwis on six occasions, as well as playing for the NZ Warriors and Harlequins RL at club level. Now he looks to take his playing career to another level with the Wigan Warriors.

The New Zealand scrum half has signed a three year deal with the Warriors, in which time, he hopes to raise his own game; “I wanted to come here to better my football.

“I thought you know with the players that we’ve got here and the coaching staff, I thought I could improve my footy to a level for me to play international rugby.”

Off the pitch Thomas is settling into life in the north, but his start with the cherry and whites has not been as easy.

After a losing start last weekend to Warrington, yesterday Wigan scraped an 18-16 win in the south of France against Catalans. Leading up to the game, Thomas said: “The guys are just working on going through sets together just so that we can get used to each other.

“We’ll definitely be better than we were last week.”

After only two games together, Trent Barrett and Thomas Leuluai’s halfback partnership is yet to fully flourish.

Thomas believes his partnership with Trent will improve, he said: “It’s been hard for us with Trent not training for us in the first couple of weeks; once we get used to the boys it should run a lot smoother.

“The harder we can train, the quicker we can get better.”

As the second youngest player to represent New Zealand, Thomas was handed the opportunity to face the green and golds for the first time in 2003. Both Stacey Jones and Lance Hohaia were injured at the time and Thomas has suffered bad luck with injuries since then.

Over the last couple of years, Leuluai suffered a broken ankle followed by hamstrings problems. On his injuries, Thomas said: “Injuries are just part of the game and sometimes I’ve been unlucky, but hopefully the red and white jersey brings a bit more luck for me.”

The Auckland born star is looking forward to playing in some big games in his time with Wigan, not least in the Challenge Cup.

On the Warriors’ team goals for 2007, Thomas said: “We gotta get used to each other, so I think the Challenge Cup would be a more realistic goal, but you know we’ll see how we go.”

Through the course of the year, Leuluai will be coming up against some of his fellow countrymen.

In Round 2, Tommy was denied the chance to play against his role model Stacey Jones, who he commented on, saying: “I’ve sort of moulded my game around Stace and good luck to him, you know he’s a fantastic player, actually one of the best New Zealand players you’ll ever see and arguably one of the best half backs around the world.

Although Stacey missed the game through injury, Thomas said he would still meet up with him; “He’s an awesome bloke, real genuine bloke, and I’ll look forward to seeing him with his family.”

A game Tommy is not so enthusiastic about is when Wigan travel to the Headingley Carnege Stadium to face his cousin Kylie Leuluai and the Leeds Rhinos.

“He’s pretty big and he’ll be hunting for me but, we talked about it quite a lot, it’s quite funny and I’m good you know, it’s good to have him over here.”

Leuluai spoke words of praise for his new coach Brian Noble, saying: “He’s a great people’s person and he’s the type of coach you wanna play for.

“He keeps everyone happy and runs a tight ship, and he’s well respected from all the players and pretty much everyone here in England, so it’s good to have him here.”

If Leuluai and Barrett form the partnership they are capable of, then 2007 could be a successful year for Thomas and the Warriors. Super League, beware.

Words: Richard English
Interview: Richard English and John Crossley.
Photo Credit: Rlphotos.com - Read More, Here