Paea Fa’anunu: from relegation to TOP 14 champion
Paea Fa’anunu, Castres Olympique’s prop (1m87, 134kg) and Tongan international player began his career in New Zealand before moving to Montpellier in November 2013 as a medical joker. After two seasons in TOP 14, Paea faced some difficulties and was on the verge of going back to New Zealand. He did not have a club and was injured during offseason. But he then was the perpetrator of a significant ascent, eventually winning the TOP 14 championship with Castres Olympique (CO) at the end of season 2017/18.
Back in July 2016, ACTIVrep was asked by the LOU to act as an intermediary between the Lyon-based club and Paea Fa’anunu while the latter was pronounced fit to play rugby in France after a surgery of the Achilles tendon. LOU’s coach Pierre Mignoni got in touch with Maxence Karoutchi following one of his player’s injury. Paea was then added to the squad for a month in between two seasons. That experience allowed him to rediscover the daily activity of playing rugby at a professional level.
Set aside from Lyon after preseason, US Dax’s former manager Jérome Daret got in touch with Maxence in order to involve him as an intermediary between Dax and Paea. Paea signed for a year. He got back on his feet after a few weeks of work, and was back at his best level in March 2017. The club then extended him and Paea showed he was back at the very best level at the start of season 2017/18, which aroused Christophe Urios’ interest.
Given his very conclusive performances, he decided to meet up with Paea and contacted ACTIVrep to discuss the venue of the player to Castres. An agreement is found. At the time, Paea was experiencing a tricky season with Dax that ended up relegated the day before the end of PRO D2. Christophe Urios asked to forward Paea’s venue and recruited him as a medical joker to qualify for the TOP 14 final phases. An agreement is then quickly found between Dax, the CO, and Paea. After only a couple of months, Castres and Paea eventually won the TOP 14 title at the end of season 17/18.
To this day, Paea is one of the few if not the only player to have been relegated in Federale 1 and then promoted to TOP 14 champion over one single season.
How did you experience those past 3 years?
“There have been some ups and down for sure in the past 3 years. But I’m grateful for the opportunities and for where I am at now. I’m really enjoying my experience in Castres.”
How was your experience winning the ultimate title with the CO ?
“One of my goals was to reach TOP 14. Winning with Castres, given that I had just arrived in the club, was a real dream come true!”
What are your objectives for the future?
“I want to play some good rugby, get some game time with Castres always, and also I’m looking forward to the World Cup.”
What do you retain from your relationship with Maxence?
“He did good work and I’m grateful for the opportunities he helped me to get eventually!”