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He will be the biggest member of this year's Southland Stags rugby squad and lock Nathan George's motivation to prove his worth will be just as significant.

The 25-year-old stands 1.97m (6ft 6in) and tips the scales at 115kg and was officially signed by Rugby Southland yesterday.He trained with the Stags squad at Riverton yesterday afternoon and talked about his desire to show he can cut it in the division one NPC. George has been in the Highlanders Development team for the past three seasons but has played just one game for Otago, a pre-season loss against Southland in Queenstown in 2001. He is desperate to prove his ability in the national provincial championship. "That's my No 1 aim," George said yesterday. "I just wanted another crack at (playing in the) NPC. "For a couple of years, I was just so close to it. I was just waiting for an injury to another player, or just waiting for that call-up, but it just never came. "Last week that call did come, from Rugby Southland. It took the then Sydney-based George by surprise. He had talked to Stags coach Phil Young in May when the Highlanders were in Sydney for their Super 12 game against the Waratahs. He heard nothing more until last week. "I was just getting ready to go to club training," George said. "Then my agent was on the phone saying Southland was keen to talk to me. "A couple of days later they rang up to see if I was interested. "It took me like 30 seconds to say yes."

George had been playing for the Southern Districts club in Sydney.The Stags' 2003 fullback Graydon Staniforth also played for the club before moving to England this year. George is Australian-born but has a New Zealand father and a Samoan mother. He not only has a big frame but is also athletic with silky ball skills, probably a result of a basketball career that saw him play for Sydney age-group teams. Last month, George also played for Manu Samoa against Fiji in the final of the Pacific-Rim islands rugby competition. He was also on standby for the Pacific Islands team that played Australia, the All Blacks and then South Africa last Saturday. George said physically he was in good shape because Samoan coach Michael Jones had "really drilled us for fitness". He was also over the leg break that ended his 2003 Dunedin club season early. George broke his left leg while playing for the Southern team he captained. He said a big factor in signing for Southland was the presence of Young, who had coached him in Highlanders Development teams. "I've had him for nearly three years," George said. "We had a good relationship then and it carried on today when we had our first meeting again. "Young regards George as a potential Super 12 lock and knows he will give the Stags much-needed second-row depth behind Hoani Macdonald and Daniel Quate, who is still recovering from injury. "Nathan had a lot of frustration there for a while with injury and things but that's all behind him now," Young said.