Guinness PRO12: Mils Muliaina to join Zebre from Connacht

Former All Blacks centurion still has plenty to offer as he heads to northern Italy after just one season in the west of Ireland

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff
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Mils Muliaina heading to Italy to pass on his knowledge and experience

Mils Muliaina will join Italian club Zebre from Connacht for the 2015/16 season.

The 34-year-old former New Zealand full-back, who retired on 100 international caps after winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup, has agreed a one-year deal with the Parma-based club, who are currently bottom of the Guinness PRO12.

“I have always been a big believer of passing my knowledge and experience of the game on to other up and coming rugby players.

Mils Muliaina on his move from Conancht to Zebre

He has been limited to just seven appearances to date in the PRO12, with his debut coming against the Italians at the Sportsground, while his final appearance for Connacht could also come against the bianconeri in the final game of the season at the Stadio Lanfranchi on Saturday 9 May.

Muliaina will become the second All Black to move to Parma, following scrum-half Brendon Leonard, who will leave the club this summer to join the Ospreys.

“I am really looking forward to my move to Italy to join Zebre Rugby,” Muliaina said.

“I have always been a big believer of passing my knowledge and experience of the game on to other up and coming rugby players.

“With the experience I have had playing in Milan and Rome with the All Blacks, I know the Italians are very passionate about rugby in their country.

“Joining Zebre allows me to maintain the appetite I have to succeed as a rugby player.

“After chatting to Brendon [Leonard] about his time in Zebre, I am looking forward to an exciting season ahead.”

A former Super Rugby winner in 2003 with the Auckland-based Blues franchise, Muliaina’s country-hopping adventure began when he joined the Osaka-based NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan’s Top League in 2011, and then Connacht last summer after a brief spell back in Super Rugby with the Chiefs.

But he will be remembered in Italy more for his attacking prowess as an All Black, scoring 33 tries in a career that saw him become just the second New Zealand centurion, with three tries of them coming two Test matches against the Azzurri, in Rome in 2004 and Milan in 2009.

And Zebre team manager Andrea De Rossi was delighted to unveil the club’s first signing for next season.

“I think there’s no real need to introduce Muliaina, a symbol of rugby itself, who took part in three World Cups,” De Rossi said.

“I believe that with his immense experience across the back line, he will be a significant contributor to the growth of many young players in our squad.”

Despite his brief spell in Galway, Connacht head coach Pat Lam believes that Muliaina has made a huge impression on the province and its young squad.

“Even in one quick year, Mils has made a lasting contribution to Connacht Rugby,” Lam said.

“His influence on and off the field with our young squad has been invaluable, and I know the players, particularly the backs, have benefited from his vast experience.

“A big part of our growth as a team this season has been around challenging each other to reach higher standards, and Mils was massive in driving this.

“He has really embraced the Connacht culture and he’s made a big effort to get out amongst the community, and I know the supporters have enjoyed meeting and getting to know him.”

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