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(Austin Brewin photo)

Northampton has signed San Francisco Golden Gate lock/No. 8 Samu Manoa for the 2011-2012 season.

The Californian native has made an almost meteoric rise in the last eight months. He was set to miss the Americas Rugby Championship because he wasn't picked, and instead was playing in New Zealand. But John van der Giessen's signing with Bath opened a spot and Manoa was called back from New Zealand to play for the USA Selects.

He did well enough in that tournament to earn a spot on the USA test team's tour of Europe in November, and pushed for a starting position there.

At 6-6, 275-lbs, Manoa is a powerful force for SFGG. He is an excellent runner and defender, and one of the reasons SFGG's lineout is among the best in the Super League.

Northampton Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder says that while not many people in England have heard of Manoa at the moment he had the potential to impress next season.

“We have been impressed by what we have seen of Samu,” he said. “He is physical, has good ball skills and an outstanding turn of pace for a big man. He is also eager to make the most of his opportunity in England and wants to succeed in the Premiership. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Saints environment.”