Taufa’ao Filise, one of the most remarkable figures to play regional rugby, is to ease his 42-year-old limbs onto a rugby field once again in Wales.
The tight-head made 255 appearances over 12 seasons during a career with Cardiff Blues which made him an Arms Park legend.
He retired as a top-level player last term and that appeared to be that: Filise waved goodbye and walked off into the sunset, albeit a month later he pitched up to work for Dragons Signs, a Blues sponsor.
But the popular Tongan has kept his hand in playing the occasional game at a lower level over the border and now he is to figure this side of the Severn Bridge once more, when he features in a testimonial match for an old front-row sparring partner, former Ospreys and Wales prop Paul James, at The Gnoll in Neath on July 27.
Filise will play for a Select XV against a Classic Lions selection in a match that will see many of James’ old team-mates roll back the years.
Gavin Henson, Shane Williams, Lee Byrne, James Hook, Ryan Jones, Rowland Phillips, Lyndon Bateman and Andy Powell are all booked for Select XV duty.
Allan Bateman, Dafydd James, Delon Armitage, Chris Wyatt, Ian Gough and Jason Forster are among those set to feature in the Lions side.
There should be no trouble about Filise lasting the pace.
The rock from Malapo may be into his middle age but he has looked after himself since finishing at the top level and apparently gives the impression that he could still start and finish a regional rugby match tomorrow. “He’s still in ridiculous nick,” said one of the match organisers.
“It says a lot for him.”
It says much, too, for James’ standing in the game that so many big names are coming out to support him.
The Wales international made 66 Test appearances and played 232 times for the Ospreys, skippering them in the win over Australia in 2006.
But a persistent shoulder injury forced him to call it quits midway through last season.
The testimonial has been called ‘Ten21′ after James’ international cap number as well as a bistro bar he and his wife own in Neath.
Tickets for the match are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children and concessions. Full details here.