Iziq Foa’i has been a key figure in the run of form that has seen Abu Dhabi Harlequins take a firm grip on the Gulf Top Six.
The teenage centre was already considered one of UAE rugby’s brighter prospects, but since the turn of the year he has begun to impose himself on games like never before.
Quins have won five from five in the regional competition and according to coach Jeremy Manning, Foa’i has been man of the match in most of those games.
Manning has been crucial, alongside former Harlequins Rugby League players Sam and Ben Bolger, in the development of the New Zealander since he was elevated to senior rugby at the end of last season.
And following the club’s UAE Premiership disappointment, theywanted to see the 18-year-old assert himself more.
“That’s something I really worked on from Christmas,” Foa’i, who sites Sonny Bill Williams as his idol, says.
“I had a big break after the Dubai Sevens and I had to come back and work my way back into the first team from the bench.
“One thing I was told was to be more vocal on the field so that is something I tried to knuckle down on. To try and take leadership as a No12 because on the blindside I’m kind of by myself.”
The hard work certainly seems to be paying off. With Foa’i’s ability to break the gainline from inside centre a key part of their armoury, Quins have racked up a mammoth 145 points from their five games.
“I’m loving it actually, the standard is really helping me improve from playing with the under-18s,” Foa’i adds.
“It’s just really good to learn from my peers around me. I’ve obviously got Ben Bolger on my outside all the time and Jeremy has helped me learn a lot.
“[I’ve learned] discipline and my role as a No12; where I should be, the lines I should be running, just to talk more. Just little things.
“My fitness has really improved as well, the fitness is really nextlevel in the men’s.”
Fitness had been an issue for the teenager who undertook a gruelling regime last summer, overseen by Manning and Sam Bolger, to get himself ready for a week with the London Harlequins Academy. The extra work in the gym worked with Foa’i impressing the English club, who have kept in contact with their Abu Dhabi counterparts.
Saracens and Northampton have also been in touch, while Foa’i is also on the radar in his home country, with interest from a school in Waikato.
However, Foa’i is keeping an open mind: “I really just want to try my best and get as far as I can.”
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