Campese following in Salesi’s footsteps at Saints

Campese Ma'afu made his Saints debut last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Campese Ma'afu made his Saints debut last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Roles were reversed for the Ma’afu brothers at Franklin’s Gardens last Sunday.

For the two years Salesi spent at Saints, his younger sibling, Campese, would head to the Gardens to cheer him on.

But, last weekend, the boot was on the other foot as Salesi took a seat and watched on as Campese made his Northampton debut.

The 31-year-old Fiji prop emerged from the bench during the second half, helping Saints, who he joined late last month, earn a bonus-point 29-23 win against Harlequins.

It was a priceless success and one built on the aggression of the home side’s forward pack.

Campese certainly did his bit, helping to win a penalty in the very first scrum he was part of.

And he was delighted to follow in the footsteps of Salesi, who made 55 appearances in the green, black and gold, propelling Saints to an Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup double in the process.

“Salesi was here - he made the trip down from Cardiff (where he now plays) to see me make my debut,” Campese said. “He’s proud!

“It’s his third game back at the Gardens since he’s been back in the UK and Saints will always hold a special place in his heart. He’s a proud supporter of the Saints.

“He said a lot of good things about the Saints. I was doing my research before coming here and I got a lot from Salesi.

“He was great and he said to me this place is awesome.

“I told him I didn’t need to know much about the fans because I’ve seen it all myself from being part of the crowd for the two years he was here.

“Now to be on the pitch and witness the whole atmosphere was a great feeling.”

Campese will now hope to emulate his brother’s achievements when it comes to securing silverware, too.

He is at the Gardens for another couple of seasons when the current one ends, and he said: “They’ve definitely 
built a winning atmosphere and it’s great to be involved in it.

“For me it’s just excelling my career, I’m a learning person, I want to get better and Saints can help me do that.”

Saints first showed an interest in Campese after watching him lock horns with England and Leicester Tigers prop Dan Cole, among others, at the World Cup.

And he explained: “They got in touch with me just after the tournament.

“Obviously I represented Fiji and when the call came from Saints I was originally signed (for Provence) in Pro D2 in France and it was a no-brainer for me.

“I decided to honour the contract and then come along and be part of this.”

Campese will now look to stamp his mark on the massive games ahead.

Saints go to Wasps on Sunday before travelling for a Champions Cup quarter-final at Saracens and a home encounter with local rivals Leicester Tigers.

“I’m looking forward to all of the big games coming forward,” said Campese, who possesses the trademark Ma’afu smile.

“We should be okay.”