En rejoignant Aurillac, le Néo-Zélandais Elijah Niko renoue avec son deuxième pays

By joining Aurillac, New Zealander Elijah Niko has reconnected with his second country

He arrived in France for the first time. Too small and at the time it was a lease that only lasted a few months. After nine years settling in France for a period that finally spanned more than six seasons, Elijah Niko is back in Pro D2, in Aurillac, to renew the bond he didn’t break with his second home.

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France is also my home, my daughter is French and I have a house in Bordeaux. It’s good to be here,” the three-quarters center smiles, at ease with the French that launched the process of acquiring French citizenship; a country where he also has two cousins, professional rugby players like himself: Lyonnais Alex Tupuola and Montalbanais Taleta Tupuola.

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Also, for the former treetop rider, when the opportunity to reconnect with the Pro D2 arose when I called it Aurillac, it didn’t take long to think about it. “I really wanted to go back. I left for a while, but I didn’t finish my story here, it’s good to go back to Pro D2,” the player slipping who saw England as nice arcs to grab.

“Going there allowed me to become a better player. When I arrived here I was young, I had no experience yet, and I had to learn everything. After these three years of English, I have more experience, I progressed.”

Elijah Niko (three-quarters of the center of Aurillac)

Crossing the canal, Ilya Niko responded to the call of a coach who had known him in New Zealand. This time, it was a discussion with Maxime Petitjean who – since he had left for Toulon – facilitated his coming to Aurillac. “I knew Maxim, I had already encountered him,” confirms the three-quarters who found in the Kantal project something to go along with.

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At the age of thirty, Elijah Niko returned to France with Aurillac, who recruited him as the center of the three-quarters. A position he found in England after playing there when he was younger. During his first stay in France, he revealed himself in the suite.

While he had mainly developed on the wing during his first spell in France, with some success (78 games, 30 attempts), new Aurillacois arrived this time to develop in the center, which England allowed him to find. “I slid right there in the middle, it’s a position that suits me better. I’ve played that role before, but I’m younger.”

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Simpler transmission

Discussions with Roméo Gontinéac, as well as the fact that Elijah Niko went to school with Rhema Sagote, did the rest. “In fact, everything stuck,” appreciates the New Zealander who has registered for two years and knows exactly how to blend in with his new environment.

“It is much easier than the first time I came. I speak French, and I know how the systems work… The transition will be much easier.”

In his peak 30s, Elijah Niko is no longer the young player from the game at the age of 13 who didn’t have a bottle at 15 when he landed at Béarn to pull the Joker. It’s a good thing you’ve established yourself as one of the Stade Aurillacois’s most anticipated offensive gear in the role this season. Like a player who intends to prove that he still has beautiful pages to write in his history with French rugby.

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Text and photos: Jean Paul Coda كود

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