Tonga’s all-time leading try scorer joins the Utah Warriors for Major League Rugby
Salt Lake City, January 5, 2018: The Utah Warriors announce the signing of former Otago Highlander, Exeter Chief and Tonga’s all-time leading try-scorer, Fetu’u Vainikolo.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity and a new beginning in Utah,” said Vainikolo. “Everyone knows the massive potential that rugby has in America, and I can’t wait to be a part of it with the Utah Warriors. I’ve played all over the world in the toughest competitions, but have never been a part of growing a club from the very beginning. It’s going to be a challenge but these are very exciting times in Utah. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds, but I’m confident in the team the Warriors are putting together both on and off the field.”
Vainikolo was born and raised in the small Tongan village of Ha’alalo. As the second youngest of 6 children, Vainikolo moved to New Zealand at the age of 12 and attended Marcellin College. In 2007 Vainikolo made his ITM Cup debut for the Northland and caught the attention of Super Rugby franchises with his try-scoring ability. The following year Vainikolo joined the Highlanders and was a stand out performer on the wing during his three years in Super Rugby.
In 2011 Vainikolo made the move north to play with Ireland based side Connacht in the Pro12 competition and was a lethal part of their attack. After two years as a regular starter for Connacht Vainikolo join Exeter Chiefs and helped them win the LV Cup in 2014. After a stint in the English Premiership, Vainikolo moved to France to play with Top 14 side Oyonnax and is now with Valence Romans.
Vainikolo has also enjoyed success on the International stage. As a Tongan International, he received his first cap in 2011 against Fiji and has since played 28 tests for the ‘Ikale Tahi. Shortly after his international debut Vainikolo was selected for the 2011 World Cup and was a part of the squad which upset finalists France in pool play. In 2015 Vainikolo was selected for his second World Cup and is currently the leading try scorer in Tongan test history with 17 tries.
“Signing Fetu’u is huge for us,” said Warriors Head Coach, Alf Daniels, “he’s a very exciting player who can be a real spark in our backline. You can see from his highlights that he loves to score tries and can do so from almost anywhere. Someone with his experience and skill set just needs the ball to thrive, but once he arrives we’ll see where he fits with the team and will put him in the best position to succeed. Not many other teams in MLR can say they have someone who has played ITM Cup, Super Rugby, Pro12, Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and two World Cups. We’re excited to see his experience and talent shine in a Warriors jersey.”
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