Aki Seiuli’s impressive impact gives Glasgow grounds for real hope

Loosehead prop has quickly impressed since joining Warriors from New Zealand

Aki Seiuli
Aki Seiuli training at Scotstoun. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

GLASGOW may have had an indifferent season so far, but one of the real plus points has been the signing of Aki Seiuli. Although the loosehead prop has so far only played in a handful of games, his dynamic play in the loose has already impressed, and suggests he will be a more-than-useful foil for Oli Kebble in the position.

That much was clear to Warriors forward coach John Dalziel, for one, after Seiuli made his debut off the bench in the defeat by Leinster at the end of November, coming on after barely ten minutes when Kebble had to go off with a head injury. “What a debut he had,” was Dalziel’s verdict in the aftermath of that PRO14 encounter at Scotstoun. “We had a look through the stats and his were very impressive. For a guy to come off the bench and carry 21 times, make 22 tackles, hit 18 rucks is impressive. He gave us the most go-forward in terms of metres.”

The New Zealander, who celebrated his 27th birthday just before Christmas, has now played in four further games for Glasgow, starting in the home matches against La Rochelle and Edinburgh, and being a replacement in the away fixtures against those teams. He has slotted in quickly to his new team, to whom his style of play appears very well suited. But he insists that he still has a lot of improving to do, especially in the scrum.

“There’s a lot of set pieces,” Seiuli said when asked to name the biggest differences between the type of game he was used to with the Highlanders and Otago and the style of play that predominates in the PRO14. “Back home we love our set piece, but we look to get the ball out quick and play some fast, running rugby.

“I like to play fast and have the ball in hand. It’s a challenge getting my set piece up to pace, so I have found it challenging but I’m enjoying it and I’m getting better week by week.  Settling into Glasgow was the first challenge I faced too – understanding the accent.”

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Besides insisting that his own game needs to improve, Seiuli is well aware that the Warriors as a whole need to do far better in the coming months if they are to stay in the hunt for the league play-offs and the Champions Cup knockout stages. Asked what he thought needed to be improved, he said: “Being clinical in crucial moments. There was some harsh decisions [in the defeat by Edinburgh] and so I think we need to be better with our discipline and executing our game plan.

“In the set piece, I felt like the scrum . . .  . There was no contested scrums,” he continued, when asked to specify what those harsh decisions were. “The decision was made before the scrum was in, really. So there was a couple of crucial calls on that. That’s just my opinion.”

Edinburgh, of course, felt that they had not been allowed a clean contest in the scrum in the first 1872 Cup match, which Glasgow won, so there is an element of subjectivity about these things, as Seiuli suggested. In any case, with that defeat taking the Warriors’ record to five losses from nine matches in the league, their new signing knows that his new team cannot afford too many more slip-ups. They face a demanding trip to Treviso for Saturday’s match against Benetton, but Seiuli is sure they will respond well after the disappointment of the 29-19 loss at Murrayfield.

“It would have been good to have got the win against Edinburgh, but we know that each game is going to be crucial for us. So I guess that as a team, we’ve just got to take it step by step and focus on what we can get better on and control the controllables.

“We’ve just got to take it week by week and focus on this weekend coming up. I guess it’s challenging, but the boys will look forward to that challenge and I’m sure we’ll step up to it.”

About Stuart Bathgate 1412 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.