Utah Warriors & Fetu’u Vainikolo
The Utah Warriors signed former Otago Highlander, Exeter Chief, and Tonga’ international wing and leading try scorer, Fetu’u Vainikolo. He is 32 years old (33 when the MLR season begins), is 6’0″ tall and weighs 209 pounds.
Vainikolo was born and raised in the small Tongan village of Ha’alalo. He moved with his family to New Zealand at the age of 12 and attended Marcellin College. He moved through age group rugby levels in Auckland before moving to Wellsford club Northland in 2007.
Making his ITM Cup debut for Northland and caught the attention of Super Rugby franchises with his try-scoring ability. In 2008 Vainikolo joined the Highlanders and played for three years in Super Rugby. In 2011 he was included in the team’s wider training group.
After the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Vainikolo moved to Ireland to play Connacht in the Pro12 competition and in 2013 he joined the English Premiership Exeter Chiefs, helping them win the LV Cup in 2014. In 2015 he moved to France to play with Top 14 side Oyonnax and is now with Valence Romans.
Vainikolo & International Rugby
Vainikolo was selected to the Tonga National team where he debuted against Fiji on August 13 at Churchill Park, Lautoka. His last test for the ‘Ikale Tahi’ was against Italy at Padova, on Nov. 26, 2016. He played 28 tests, including 5 Rugby World Cup appearances in 2011 and in 2015 and is the leading try scorer in Tongan test history with 17 tries.
Vainikola said “I’m looking forward to this opportunity and a new beginning in Utah. 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.”
Warriors head Coach Alf Daniels said “Signing Fetu’u is huge for us. 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.”
- Alf Daniels – Head Coach
- Paul Lasike – Center
- John Cullen – Lock, Backrow
- Lote Tuipulotu – Hooker (Prop)
- Alex Tucci – No.8
- Kenny Scott – Flanker, Wing
- Saia Uhila – No. 8
- Matt Jensen – Lock
- Pio Vatuvei – Prop
- Jackson Kaka – Flanker
- Joshua Whippy – Fullback, Center, Wing
- Havea Unufe – Center
- Fetu’u Vainikolo – Center, Wing