The Scarlets have unveiled a new signing in their squad for the start of the season, with the arrival in Llanelli of experienced New Zealand scrumhalf Ruki Tipuna.
The 28-year-old, a Sevens specialist has played for New Zealand's national team in the abbreviated version of the game, widely recognised as the best in the world, and also with international experience in the 15-man version - with the New Zealand Maori.
His provincial experience has been with Bay of Plenty and Wellington.
With injuries to the Scarlets' two young scrumhalves, Gareth Davies (groin) and Aled Davies (knee) and with Tavis Knoyle on World Cup duty, the arrival of an experienced and vocal No.9 is a welcome boost to an exciting and talented young backs division at the Scarlets.
He joins initially on a short-term contract in the 2011/2012 season with the option to extend his time at Parc y Scarlets. His first contract in top flight rugby in Europe, Tipuna arrived in Llanelli for the first time on Friday to meet the coaching team and tour his new home and said he was very impressed with the set-up at Parc y Scarlets.
Tipuna knows fellow Scarlets Kiwis Regan King (now with Clermont) and also Deacon Manu, who has also played for the New Zealand Maori side.
"You know what rugby means to the Scarlets and its supporters from the outside and now seeing the Scarlets stadium and set-up here, you can really understand that there's a really strong rugby community here - similar to back home," Tipuna said.
"I'm really looking forward to it, it's something new for me and nice to have a fresh start. I'm excited about the opportunities of playing in Italy, Ireland and France and hopefully will catch up with a few of my mates who are scattered around Europe."
Tipuna believes the Scarlets style of play will suit his game and coming from a competitive and intense sevens environment hopes he can add some edge behind the pack.
"Playing Sevens for New Zealand's national team is hard work - they're very tough on fitness and training. I like the quick game and to run about - I've got a strong kicking game too and as I'm not the biggest guy around, I need to be vocal behind those forwards."
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: "Adding someone of Ruki's quality and experience to our squad at this particular time is a great boost to the group. We have some injury issues at nine currently and it is important that our young scrum-halves come back at the right time and that we're not rushing them. Their injuries need to be managed, they are young players and particularly Aled Davies who has been out for some time.
"We are completely behind the development of our Welsh players and bringing in experience in a key position for us will only help accelerate the learning of some of our younger Welsh backs and will particularly benefit players like Aled Davies, Rhodri Williams and Gareth Davies."
Davies added that 18-year-old Rhodri Williams had shown "huge promise" in the pre-season and impressed in training moving that into the pre-season fixtures where he has been the outstanding player in the last two games. With a packed schedule of Under-18 and some Sevens for Wales plus the off-season, at a young age, Davies is mindful of the fact he has played a lot of rugby without any break.
On his new Scarlets signing, Davies said: "Ruki is a very strong player in his own right, and he fires up on the field and is quite vocal and opinionated which is what we need with a young back line.
"I think his play will suit our style, he's sharp and shrewd and a great ball player and has the talent to also play at 10 - he's a goal kicker too. Someone of his capability will be able to fit into what we do very quickly."
Davies added that the Scarlets would be looking secure the services of some additional young Welsh talent on development contracts in the coming weeks following some impressive performances throughout the pre-season campaign.
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