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Rugby Union: Destructive influence belies committed family man Talei.

Byline: By Brian Dick Rugby Correspondent

It is without a hint of self-awareness that Netani Talei describes his three-year-old son as 'quite rough'. Jayden, you see, has trouble playing with children his own age because just like his father, he loves his rugby.

And when he grows up, if he's anything like his dad, he'll love stopping some of the Premiership's biggest names in their tracks and driving them not so much into the dirt as into dirt.

Worcester's Talei did just that last weekend when he unceremoniously dumped former Red Rose captain Martin Corry on his illustrious backside. The week before he wrought his own brand of Fijian havoc on the entire London Wasps back row. He is a forceful man.

But the former Doncaster No 8 isn't just one of those Pacific Islanders who love playing without the ball. If it's possible to be, Talei is even more destructive with ball in hand. Just ask Toby Flood.

For'twas the England Ty half who was encouraged out of the way as Talei scored a 40-metre try against the Tigers. It was a score that beautifully summed up the 25-year-old's assets. Seismic power to create a hole and then searing pace to get through it.

"I was a bit worried about Tom Varndell catching me, he's pretty fast too," Talei says. Indeed he is but the winger with rockets in his boots was not quick enough on the day. Talei scorched over the line by a couple of lengths.

And if Mike Ruddock ruminates about adding 'more structure' to Talei's game, he does so knowing it must not be at the loss of the qualities that initially persuaded head coach Clive Griffiths to bring him with him from Castle Park. Particularly when they have waited for a year to see it.

In his Vrst season at Six ways glimpses of Talei's heady cocktail of pace and strength were all too Teeting. A long National One campaign ran straight into an international summer, which in turn led into the World Cup.

By the time he reached the Midlands, eager to impress, there wasn't much left in the tank. "I was desperate to make an impact but with no break I picked up an injury and missed a lot of time. It was hard but at least I had my family with me."

That is not a luxury he enjoys at present. Talei's wife and two children are back in his homeland attending to 'family commitments'.

He does not expect to see them until next May.

"The only way I can take care of them now is by playing good rugby over here. I have a job to do and I intend to do it to the best of my ability."

If that sounds hard, it has to be. It is the only sort of defence that can help a young man in a situation where he has only seen his second child, daughter Dilia-Rae, for the Vrst ten days of her life.

His baby is now three months old. She will be nearly one when they next meet. "I was playing international rugby in Australia and had to Ty back for the birth. I returned to Australia and then played the same day."

But it his Jayden who occupies his thoughts most. "I bonded with him so much in those Vrst three years," Talei says. "It's hard for him not having me around. He finds it difficult to play with kids his own age because he's so into his rugby that he's quite rough."

If ever there was truth in the maxim 'Like father like son' the Taleis Snr and Jnr appear to prove it. Flood and Corry had trouble playing nicely with the spectacularly-coiffured No 8 because he was a little too rough as well.

It is a quality that will stand him in good stead against Bath at The Rec tomorrow. With Ruddock prizing continuity over rotation, Talei is almost certain to start.

"I've never played there so I'm really looking forward to it. We did well against Leicester and Wasps so there is no reason why we can't do the same against Bath. What we have to do it make sure we stop them off-loading, we've talked a lot about that." And Talei thinks he has just the way of doing that.


Netani Talei plunges over the tryline to score after his searing break against Leicester Tigers last week Picture, DAVID DAVIES/PRESS ASSOCIATION
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 26, 2008
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