Junior Vasuitoga: Castleford Tigers give trial to Army rugby union flier

Serving soldier Junior Vasuitoga has pledged to prove he can make the grade in professional rugby after joining Castleford Tigers on a three-month trial.

The 26-year-old Fijian is a member of 9 Regiment RLC, based near Chippenham in Wiltshire and has featured for the British Army’s senior XV and sevens squads.

He plays centre, wing or full-back and has been identified by Tigers coach Lee Radford as a potential star in the 13-a-side code, despite no previous rugby league experience.

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Vasuitoga linked up with Tigers this week, at the start of pre-season and will play in trial games ahead of the 2022 campaign.

Junior Vasuitoga training with Castleford Tigers. Picture by Melanie Allatt Photography/Castleford Tigers.

“I started playing for the Army during my second phase of training, playing for the under-23s, then I jumped into sevens,” he said of his rugby background.

“In 2018 I moved into the senior squad, so pretty much all of my time in the Army I’ve played rugby.

“During 2020 I went to the Falklands for six months as a supplier; when I came back, I returned to sevens to play.

“Then there was an opportunity, if I wanted to grab it, with rugby league after my footage was seen by Lee.

Junior Vasuitoga. Picture by Melanie Allatt Photography/Castleford Tigers.

“I said, ‘if it’s rugby league or rugby union, it doesn’t matter as long as it has that oval shape, I’d be happy with it’.”

Vasuitoga admitted it will take time to adjust to a change of sport.

“It has been new for me personally,” he said.

“I am still trying to sink in that emotion that I am here.

Lee Radford. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“When I got on to the pitch with the lads I was like ‘so this is how the professionals train,’ it is another level.

“I find it really good, the lads have been very helpful.

“There is a lot to take in, but they are really helpful with everything.

“The coaching staff too, any coaching drills I didn’t get right they’ve taught me how to do it, showing video.”

But Vasuitoga reckons his sevens experience will help him in rugby league.

“The pace of league and the pace of sevens is quite similar,” he noted.

“ It’s rapid, fast - I think I can get used to that.

“It is my sort of mission, when I got told I could come here I didn’t think of second chances.

“I want to go and get it.

“When I started knowing I would be on trial I began to prepare myself for these three months.

“I’ll be doing my best and hopefully, I will earn a contract at the end.”

Radford reckons Vasuitoga has the attributes to play the 13-a-side game.

He has already had success in similar circumstances with Ratu Naulago, another Fijian-born soldier who was a regular try scorer at Radford’s previous club Hull before returning to union with Bristol Bears.

“The kid is an athlete,” Radford said of his latest find.

“He has got a striker’s instinct, he knows where the ball is going to be at.

“Like so many Fijians he looks like he’s built for rugby, a specimen.”

The Tigers coach admitted: “He’s very green.

“To get him in during pre-season is a fantastic opportunity for him, a fantastic opportunity for us to have a really good look at him and he’ll feature in our friendlies before we make a decision from there.

“Coming from a military background, he carries himself very well.

“Already with some of the physical stuff we are doing he is right at the front of that as you’d expect.

“He’s well-mannered and it looks like the kid can play.”