Veteran Puletua joins Hull KR to ease injury crisis

Tony Puletua.
Tony Puletua.
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Injury-hit Hull Kingston Rovers have signed experienced prop Tony Puletua on loan until the end of the season.

The former New Zealand and Samoan international has joined the Robins from Super League rivals Salford Red Devils and is expected to make his debut in Saturday’s derby against Hull FC at Magic Weekend in Newcastle.

Coming hot on the heels of a loan deal for Wigan front-rower James Greenwood last week, Puletua is set to bring more size and experience to the Rovers pack and the 35-year-old said he was excited to be coming to the KC Lightstream Stadium.

“It came about through a few phone calls from Chris Chester. The club has a few injuries at the moment and he wanted me to come in and help out,” he said.

“I’ve not been playing for Salford and I’ve always seen this year as my last season before I retire and I want to go out with a bang. I really want to do well for the club before I finish up.

“It’s been 19 years my career and it’s a good feeling to finish at a strong club with so much history. I really want to go out on a high and it’s straight in at the deep end for me this week against Hull FC.

“Hopefully my experience will help me and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big game on a big stage and I’m sure it will live up to all expectations. It will be great to be part of a great club.”

Puletua, who will be eligible to play in next month’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter final tie against Catalans Dragons, started his career with Penrith Panthers in the NRL and has also had a spell at St Helens in Super League.

A veteran with more than 350 appearances to his name, the 6ft 4in, 17-stone prop has enjoyed representative honours with New Zealand and Samoa during an illustrious career, as well as twice being selected to play against England with the International Exiles.

With a number of first team players currently unavailable through injury including props Dane Tilse, Adam Walker and Mitch Allgood, head coach Chris Chester said Puletua was a timely addition to his squad.

He said: “Tony is a quality player who has played at the highest level for a number of years. He won the NRL with Penrith and he has plenty of big game experience, which will be a real asset for our younger blokes.

“We are down to a couple of fit front-rowers at the moment so to bring in a prop of Tony’s calibre is a fantastic addition to our squad and our thanks go out to the Salford club for their cooperation.

“He’s a thorough professional on and off the field and he’s arrived in good shape so I’ve got no worries about throwing him straight into the derby this weekend. He’s a big forward with plenty of skill so I’m sure he’ll be a big player for us for the rest of the season and having spoken to him, I know he’s really motivated to do well for the club.”