Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight: 13 st 13 lbs (88 kg)
Date of Birth: February 10, 1980
Birthplace: Petone, New Zealand
Riki Flutey is the current PRA Premiership Player of the Year and Wasps Player of the Year, and goes into his second season as a London Wasp as a new addition to the England Elite Player squad. All this from a player who has only been playing in the Premiership since the end of 2004, and who, incidentally isn’t even English.
Considered a utility back whilst playing in New Zealand for the Hurricanes in what was then the Super 12, Flutey earned a reputation as being a skilful, distributing team player with a good kicking game. He represented New Zealand at all age groups and was a member of the U19 New Zealand team that won the World Cup in 1999. He has also represented the New Zealand Maori.
He moved to England to play for London Irish at the end of 2004, and became their driving force, playing at either 10 or 12 in the run-up to their play-off finish in the 2006-07 season. In his two seasons with the Exiles he scored an impressive 272 points including 15 tries in his 36 club appearances. As a result, Flutey earned a reputation as being one of the best centres in the Premiership, with many pundits and commentators calling for his inclusion in the England set-up as early as 2006.
His debut season at Wasps proved just as fruitful, with a Premiership medal and a well balanced partnership with Daniel Cipriani and Fraser Waters in the midfield. Wasps team mate, Dave Walder describes Flutey’s influence: “you can give him the ball as a No 10, let him deal with it, and then think a couple of phases down the line while he is making the play.”
Flutey’s qualification for England on residency grounds promises to be more fruitful than the ill-fated Vainikolo and Farrell experiments that have plagued the English backline for the past couple of years, and could help shore up an England centre pairing that lacks creativity and defensive prowess. Not bad for a Kiwi.
This is the first in a new series of articles profiling of exciting prospects for the new Northern Hemisphere season by new recruit to The Rugby Blog team, John White.