The only way is up for Lauaki

EPALAHAME Lauaki signalled his intention to make Wigan a bigger and better force after becoming Warriors’ first new signing for 2012.

The no-nonsense former Hull prop has put pen to paper on a three-year deal at the DW, with the option of a fourth season, after being granted his visa yesterday.

And Lauaki, who scored five tries in 54 matches for Hull during his two years on Humberside, admits he can’t wait to get going with his new team-mates.

“I am really looking forward to be joining such a big name in the game as the Wigan Warriors,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity for me and I feel very proud and honoured to become a part of the Wigan squad as the team look to build on their achievements of the last couple of seasons.”

Lauaki, a Tongan international who performed for his country with distinction in the 2008 World Cup, replaces the retired Andy Coley in the front row.

He was identified by another member of the prop forward’s union, new Wigan coach Shaun Wane, who is expecting big things from the human wrecking-ball.

“He is tough physical player who can play at either prop or in the second row and I’m sure he’ll flourish in our Wigan system,” said Wane.

“His size makes him a threat to any side and he also has a great offload. He’ll certainly add firepower to our squad for the forthcoming season.”

Lauaki replaces Ryan Hoffman, who has returned to the NRL with Melbourne, on Wigan’s overseas quota, and chairman Ian Lenagan was delighted to conclude the deal. Shaun Wane asked specifically that we sign Lauaki because he believes the player has significant under-used potential which Shaun can develop,” Lenagan said.

“He will also add a hard edge, with Gareth Hock, to an already-talented pack.”

Lauaki is expected to be joined at the DW for next season by Welsh internationals Ben Flower and Gil Dudson, although those deals have not been confirmed as yet.

Meanwhile, Wane has reported some good news concerning Wigan’s injured stars, who are recovering well from their off-season operations.

Sean O’Loughlin (hip) and Amos Roberts (knee) are making good progress since going under the knife.

Prop Lee Mossop is having a minor procedure on his shoulder, but should be fit for the start of pre-season training on November 14.

O’Loughlin and Roberts will report for duty on the same day, but will only be back in full training a few weeks later.

Prop Stuart Fielden is still recovering from a mid-season chest operation and is unlikely to be fully recovered until the New Year.

Warriors centre George Carmont was last night named Samoa’s player of the year at the Rugby League International Federation’s annual dinner in London. Australian full-back Billy Slater was crowned overall player of the year.