Lifeimi Mafi

Lifeimi Mafi

Lifeimi Mafi, born 15th of August 1982, is a professional rugby player with Munster Rugby, Ireland. Mafi (1.83m & 90kg) formerly represented New Zealand 7's, U19's & U21's before joining the Irish province in October 2006. The New Zealand born centre is a holder if a Tongan passport, meaning he is not regarded as an "overseas" player in either the Magners League or Heineken Cup, which allows him take the field alongside Munster's other "overseas" players, NZ Maori captain Rua Tipoki, and NZ top international try scorer Doug Howlett.

Initially, Mafi played his club rugby with Kia Toa Rugby Football Club (Kia Toa is a Maori term which translates to "be brave"), based in the subarb of Awapuni, Palmerstown North. It is one of the oldest clubs in Manawatu, and has produced former Munster fullback Christian Cullen, Bristol Shoguns No. 8 Dan Ward-Smith, and former Black Ferns captain Farah Palmer. He represented Manawatu in 2003, before moving to Taranaki in 2005 in time to play the British and Irish Lions in 2005. He made 25 appearances for Taranaki, and was named their "Back of the Season" in 2006. Mafi was also named in the Hurricanes Super 14 squad as replacement for Conrad Smith.

As mentioned, Mafi represented New Zealand at U19 and U21 level. He played alongside players of the calibre of Ben Atiga, Jimmy Cowan, John Afoa, Stephen Donald and Sam Tuitupou in the 2003 U21 RWC against Australia. Wallaby Mark Gerrard was his opposite number that day. Rocky Elsom, who has joined rival province Leinster on a one year deal, and who will cross Mafi's path, played on the blindside flank for Australia that day. Mafi was also part of the 2005 NZ 7s squad which one the world series, and played alongside Maori captain Liam Messam, All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, Isaia Toeava and Rudi Wulf.

Mafi's first appearance in a Munster shirt came during the close hard fought win against Leicester Tigers in Welford Road in Round 1 of the 2006/2007 Heineken Cup. Mafi was only on the pitch for a few minutes, but during that time found himself at the wrong end of a trademark hit from Fijian centre Seru Rabeni. However, Mafi's home debut in Thomond Park in the trouncing of French outfit Bourgoin was more impressive. Sprung from the bench with 10 minutes to go, a scintillating break and earth-shuddering hand-off resulted in a try for substitute hooker Andy Kyriacou.

Mafi first got on the scoresheet himself in the narrow away defeat to the Newport Gwent Dragons, a game in which he scored two tries. He also finished a crucial score in the HEC Round 5 game away to Bourgoin, and ran 50metres to score his final try of the season at Musgrave Park in the end of season game against the Glasgow Warriors. In all, Mafi scored 4 tries in 16 starts in his first season, but was criticised for his defensive decisions, often rushing out of the defensive line and leaving a space for opponents to exploit.

His second season in Munster was drastically more successful, even though he just managed 2 tries throughout. The presence of Maori Rua Tipoki seemed to have a calming influence of Mafi's defensive play, and the Munster centre partnership of Mafi-Tipoki was not exposed as much as the previous season's combination of Barry Murphy and Mafi, or Trevor Halstead and Mafi. Despite only scoring 3 tries between them in the victorious 2007/2008 Heineken Cup campaign, their understanding of each other's play was crucial to Munster's success. Their attacking play epitomised by Tipoki's score against London Wasps in Round 1 in the Ricoh Arena, which was created by Mafi. Mafi himself scored a vital try away to ASM Clermont Auvergne, which secured a crucial losing bonus point which safe guarded Munster's passage to the quarter final. Mafi was nominated for Munster Player of the Year, and in stark contrast to his debut in Welford Road, Stade Toulousain centre Yannick Jauzion and Gloucester Rugby hooker Andy Titterall found themselves at the end of crunching tackles from the Kiwi Centre.

Mafi recently signed a two year extension to his contract, which will see him play for Munster until at least 2010. He has becone a hero amoungst the Munster faithful, and his close bond with Rua Tipoki.

Lifeimi Mafi (born 15 August, 1982 in Nuk'olofoa,Tonga) is a Tongan Rugby Union player. His usual position is at the Centre. He is 1.83m tall and weighs 90 kg [ [ Munster Rugby : Lifeimi Mafi ] ] . He is a former New Zealand under 19 and under 21 and New Zealand Sevens representative.He played for the Manawatu in 2003 and in 2005 he played for the Taranaki team against the British and Irish Lions. He was also a squad member for the Wellington Hurricanes franchise in the Super 14 before leaving the club and going to Ireland to play for Munster in the Magners League and the Heineken Cup competition. Mafi has since formed a superb centre partnership with Rua Tipoki, and is fast becoming a Munster fan favourite with his try scoring record, slick side step and crunching tackles. His passion and the fact that he quickly bought into the Munster ideals add to this cult following. Contrary to a rumour that refuses to go away, having played IRB 7s for New Zealand, Mafi will never be eligible to play for Ireland.] He is however considered an honorary Munsterman and is known as Larry Murphy to the Thomond faithful.


External links

* [ Munster profile]

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