Leigh Leopards chief explains Ben Nakubuwai exit as prop makes Championship move

Ben Olawumi
Ben Nakubuwai

Ben Nakubuwai has left Leigh Leopards, joining Featherstone Rovers on a season-long loan

Leigh’s Head of Rugby Chris Chester has provided an explanation over Ben Nakubuwai’s exit from the club after the prop joined Featherstone Rovers on a season-long loan, likely to have played his last game for the Leopards.

Nakubuwai, who joined Leigh in 2022 when the club were still under the ‘Centurions’ tagline, has not featured at all for Adrian Lam’s side since mid-April.

His absence was originally injury-related, picking up what was described by boss Lam at the time as a ‘soft tissue problem’, but soon became selection-related.

Talks have been ongoing since before Nakubuwai’s absence from the Leigh squad began over a potential departure for the 13-time Fiji international as Leigh sought to bring in a new overseas ace.

The quota spot has now been freed up for that to happen, with Nakubuwai loaned out to Championship outfit Featherstone for the remainder of the 2024 campaign, and come the end of this season, his Leigh contract expires.

Leigh Leopards chief explains Ben Nakubuwai exit as Fijian prop makes Championship move

Explaining the decision to let Nakubuwai depart, Leopards chief Chester said: “Ben is at a point in his career where he needs to be playing regularly and right now that is something we can’t provide here.

“So we have taken the option to loan Ben to Featherstone to allow him to get some vital first team minutes.”

Nakubuwai featured in the NRL for the Gold Coast Titans prior to moving over to Super League with Salford Red Devils, and has 85 appearances in the British game on his CV to date, including 44 for Leigh.

Upon joining Championship side Fev, the player said: “I just want to say thank you to Featherstone for the opportunity to come over.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the team, staff and everyone involved at the club.

“I’m keen to get out there to play some rugby with the boys here, they’re a quality side and I just want to contribute to the success of the team as best I can.”

Featherstone ‘beat off fierce competition’ to bring Nakubuwai in

New South Wales-born Nakubuwai joins a Fev side that had won five games in a row prior to last Sunday’s 25-12 defeat at Barrow Raiders.

Despite a slow start to the campaign, Rovers sit 4th in the Championship, and the prop’s debut could come at Post Office Road against Swinton Lions this weekend.

Boss James Ford spoke of his joy at bringing the ex-NRL ace to the club, and detailed that they’d faced stern competition to secure his arrival.

Ford added: “I am absolutely delighted to bring a player of Ben’s calibre to the club.

“He’s a big powerful middle who defends to a high level. We’re all really excited by this signing and we’re all very confident he’ll be a great addition for us.

“I know we have beaten off some fierce competition from leading Championship clubs and I’m sure our fans are as excited as I am about Ben being part of the Rovers family.”