Utu Junior Maninoa Profile
Utu Junior Maninoa Life and Career Highlights.
Born June 14, 1986 and measuring 1m95 (6’4), the Samoan second row Utu Junior Maninoa arrived to Stado Tarbes Pyrénées Rugby last season from the Union Sportive Montalbanaise, a French rugby union club that currently competes in Rugby Pro D2, the second level of the country’s professional league system.
Utu Junior Maninoa quickly found his marks at the Stado Tarbes Pyrénées Rugby. After Béziers, Aurillac and the Union Sportive Montalbanaise, Tarbes represents the Somoan-bonr rughy player’s latest challenge.
Everyone calls him “Junior.” At 1.95m and 108kg (238lbs), Junior started playing rugby at the tender age of 6 in Ponsonby, a district of Auckland in New Zealand. There, he made a good reputation for himself, which allowed him to migrate to Australia where he wore the jerseys of Brisbane and Sydney.
Armed with this experience, Junior will set sail for the antipodes and join France on a very long lease.
It was during the year 2010 that Utu Junior Maninoa settled in Béziers, at the time when the Hérault team was still evolving in the Fédérale 1 bracket. Junior’s first season was a great one, so great that it will allow him to go and live a new adventure in the Pro D2 division, more specifically in Aurillac where he will spend seven long seasons, before giving himself at 32 years of age, new perspectives by opting for the bowl of Sapiac and its new colors “green and black”.
Junior Maninoa arrived in Montauban with 155 Pro D2 games under his wing along with twenty more in the Fédérale 1 division. Yes, he could have stayed in his cocoon of the Jean-Alric stadium where he he witnessed only very minot setbacks.
But he chose to take on the risk of a new challenge: “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone by showing that I can earn my place in a team like Montauban, which has been playing for two years at the very top of the division.”
A promising start
The talented player who can also play second row had also been aligned in the center of the third row during the friendly games in Carcassonne and Biarritz. “In Aurillac, I played a lot in the second row. I know the job that is required to play in both positions. Normally, I play more in the back row than in the second. The main thing for me is simply to play”, he says speaking an impeccable French.
Junior settled in Montauban with his wife and four children, in a house, with the help of brothers Dimitri and Christopher Vaotoa and prop Malino Vanai. His integration into the group was quickly accompished.
In Carcassonne, it was Junior Maninoa who was to offer the first try of the match to his former Aurillac teammate Alex Luatua. In Biarritz, he scored the last try for Sapiac after a penalty kick. Two winning actions that show that the Samoan of origin has all the good moves. The Montalbanese supporters did not delay in seeing him at work in the enclosure of Sapiac.
With Amédée Domenech, Jacques Engelbrecht and Utu Maninoa, the Tarn-et-Garonnais were ready at the back row position, with versatile players who can play in other positions as well.
Junior is also a very close friend to several Sarlat Rugby players including Ikapote Fono and Hemani Paea. The Sarlat Rugby team has recently sprung to prominence in the French rugby league system by winning 22 out 22 regular season games during the post pandemic lockout season of 2021-2022. The Sarlat team has also become an interesting target for several key players.
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