Leeds Rhinos sign New Zealand Warriors' King Vuniyayawa

Leeds Rhinos have completed their 2021 recruitment with the signing of Fiji forward King Vuniyayawa from New Zealand Warriors.

Vuniyayawa, 25, has signed a one-year deal and played five times in the NRL for the Warriors last season, finally making his first-grade debut after proving to be a late starter.

Leeds were keen to add an extra forward after Challenge Cup winner Ava Seumanufagai was granted an early release from his contract around Christmas to stay in Australia for family reasons.

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Vuniyayawa, who was still playing amateur rugby league until 2018, can play prop or loose forward and has won three caps for Fiji with whom he hopes to play in the World Cup later this year.

Rhinos head coach Richard Agar said: “I am looking forward to having King in our group.

“He has had to work hard to get to where he is in the game and his determination is something that appealed to us.

“He has been a good performer in lower grades for the Warriors and performed well when he made the breakthrough to the NRL this season.

“At his age and position, we think he is a player with plenty of potential in him.

Fiji's King Vuniyayawa playing against PNG in 2018. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

“He carries the ball hard, has some real sting in his defence, and has good athleticism for a big guy.

“On a one year deal, with a World Cup at the end of the year, and having spoken with King, we know we are getting a highly motivated player.”

Vuniyayawa will take the vacant No19 jersey and Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said: “We have been looking to add another middle to our squad for next season and King perfectly fits the bill.

“He is ambitious and keen to develop during his time at Emerald Headingley.

Leeds Rhinos' Ava Seumanufagai with the Challenge Cup at Wembley. He has now left the club and been replaced by King Vuniyayawa. (Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)

“I know from the teams that I was part of, that Rhinos fans really take overseas forwards to their hearts. ,

“When I think back to players like Ali Lauitiiti, Brett Delaney and Kylie Leuluai who initially came over for short spells but ended up making the Rhinos their home, I know that King is keen to follow in their footsteps.”

Vuniyayawa added, “I am excited and grateful to be joining Leeds Rhinos in 2021.

“I would like to thank Richard Agar for giving me this opportunity and he made the decision even easier for me to come over to play in Super League.

“I know Leeds have an extremely strong pack: I can’t wait to meet the boys and rip in.”