'Beast mode' Feauai-Sautia making his mark

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 07:03 01/03/2013

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Chris Feauai-Sautia
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BEAST MODE: Chris Feauai-Sautia scores a try during last year's Super Rugby season.

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They are both hard-running backs and share the imposing nickname "Beast Mode" - but then the similarities between Seattle Seahawks' cult figure Marshawn Lynch and Queensland Reds teenage sensation Chris Feauai-Sautia are thin on the football ground.

Lynch is the Seahawks $US4 million per season man, a loquacious five-year veteran of the NFL renowned for his "baby stiff arm" fend and a 67-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in a wildcard play-off game two years ago.

The 26-year-old running back's bamboozling surge to the end zone was rated second on ESPN's greatest touchdown runs of all time.

Lynch is also famous for his sideline sugar rush during a game, he chews through the packet of skittles mum gives him before every game to apparently sustain his energy levels.

In contrast, Feauai-Sautia is partial to skittling - the sturdy 19-year-old Aucklander of Samoan heritage prefers to churn through opposition defences.

A painfully shy church-goer who is still being conditioned by the Reds PR department to handle media inquisitions, the rampaging wing/centre does not enjoy the same profile as Lynch. 

Though after just five Super Rugby games Feauai-Sautia's legend is growing, at least within the Queensland squad.

He certainly made the ideal first impression when scoring with an early touch on debut against the Lions last year.

Feauai-Sautia crossed again against the Melbourne Rebels when deputising for injured Wallaby Digby Ioane; he also started the penultimate regular season round against the Highlanders but succumbed to a leg injury.

He came off the bench against the Brumbies in round one last month and then slotted into his preferred centre position against the NSW Waratahs last weekend.

Feauai-Sautia only made three runs - worth 28-metres - but was defensively strong against Wallabies stalwart Adam Ashley-Cooper and cross-code convert Israel Folau.

Ashley-Cooper might have played 77 tests and 94 Super Rugby games but Feauai-Sautia wasn't intimidated by his illustrious marker.

Now he aims to carry the same youthful exuberance into tonight's third round clash with the Hurricanes at Suncorp Stadium.

It will be his second start in midfield, and first experience against premier All Black centre Conrad Smith. 

"It will be the same as last week with the Waratahs (and Ashley-Cooper) I won't worry about Conrad Smith, I'll just do what I have to do," he told AAP in a rare interview.

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Capped a record 11 times by the Australian Schoolboys, Feauai-Sautia's Super Rugby debut was delayed by chronic hamstring injuries and although another tear ended 2012 prematurely so far he has been making giant strides with impunity.

The Reds coaching staff, in conjunction with the medical department, modified Feauai-Sautia's running style to counteract the stress caused by his massive thighs.

And as an added precaution, he does pilates.

"It keeps my core strong. I don't think I'll do it (a hamstring) again," he revealed, barely above a whisper.  

While Feauai-Sautia is reticent when talking about himself, teammates and Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie praise the aspiring youth leader.

"I don't get the impression he's overawed by much," said McKenzie.

"He's not an over-confident player but he certainly doesn't lack confidence in his ability.

"Chris is a big unit, very physical and he runs good lines. He's got the instinct to turn up in the right spot" - a prerequisite when Quade Cooper is running the backline.

Ioane likened Feauai-Sautia's offensive capabilities to Jonah Lomu - and naturally Lynch.

"Beast Mode! He's come through the system, he's really gifted and he's getting better with every game," the winger enthused.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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