LOCK Michael Fatialofa endured a “very tough” first season at Worcester Warriors according to director of rugby Alan Solomons.

Fatialofa arrived at Sixways in early November only to spend six weeks on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury picked up in Auckland’s title-winning Mitre10 Cup campaign.

The New Zealander, who also starred for Super Rugby giants Hurricanes in 2018, made his long-awaited Warriors debut in the European Challenge Cup win over Pau in mid-December before going on to make 12 further appearances.

Back and shoulder problems forced Fatialofa to miss matches in the second half of the Gallagher Premiership season.

But the 26-year-old finished the campaign on a high when he powered over for his first Warriors try in the win over Saracens last month.

“It was a very tough season for Michael,” Solomons said.

“He came off the back of a Super Rugby season and then went straight into the Mitre10 Cup where sometimes they play Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday.

“That was very heavy and then he came here.

“I took him out for six weeks to try to help him recover but you do not get the mental break that you actually need. He was in a new environment as well.

“I look at all the guys, particularly from New Zealand, that are bound to the Mitre10 Cup and it is never easy for them.

“It is not easy for anybody (that has played in Super Rugby) — ask Francois Venter. He has had back-to-back seasons (in Super Rugby and the Premiership). He has done really well but it not easy.”

Hooker Matt Moulds has been released from Mitre10 Cup duty with Northland to begin his Warriors career on July 1 when pre-season begins.

However, Solomons may have to wait until late October before Moulds’ Blues team-mate Melani Nanai moves to Worcester.

Solomons said Nanai had been “held back” in New Zealand to play for Auckland as he understood the Samoa-born back was on the standby list for All Blacks’ World Cup squad.

The 25-year-old has featured in all 14 of Blues’ games and is expected to figure heavily for Auckland having played an instrumental role for them last year.

Asked whether Nanai would require a break following his arrival at Warriors, Solomons said: “We will have a look at what he has done and will adapt (his training programme) to ensure we get the best out of him.

“But we can’t second guess what is going to happen in the future.

“We know that he is in New Zealand and is not being released at this point.

“He will be released at the end of the Mitre10 Cup or the World Cup — if he is fortunate enough to make the All Blacks squad.”