The New England Free Jacks signed Vili Toluta’u for the 2021 Major League Rugby season according to the Maui News. The 27-years-old hooker/flanker is 6’0″ and 250 lbs.
Vili played three seasons with the Seattle Seawolves and was the 2018 MLP in the Shield Final. In 2020 he played 197 minutes in all five matches, starting twice, and scoring a try in the Covid-19 shortened MLR season. In October/November he played with the Asia Pacific Dragons in the World Tens Series in Bermuda.
He also “developed his own rock-wall business on Maui after returning from Seattle shortly before the MLR was shut down in March 2020.”
In 2019, he was limited to playing in 4 games, starting twice, including coming back to play in the Championship. He sustained a broken leg early in the season which limited his playing time to 207 minutes. He scored 1 try, had 57 carries for 419 meters, and made 56 tackles. In 2018 he played 587 minutes in 8 matches, starting 7, and scored 3 tries.
During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Vili helped the Seawolves win back-to-back MLR Championships.
Vili is from Tavutoka, Tongatapu, Tonga, but grew up in Wailuku, Hawaii, and graduated from Henry Perrine Baldwin High School in Wailuku, Hawaii. He started playing rugby with Maui Rugby at the Kihei Youth Center. There, coach Jack Breen provided his early rugby fundamentals along with high school teammate in both football and track, Vekekina Fokelelei Malafu, who played rugby at Kutztown University and then for Austin Elite Rugby.
Vili was selected to the Boys High School All-Americans for two consecutive years and played in the Rosslyn Park Sevens and the Las Vegas Invitational. He also toured South America with the All-Americans tour of Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.
After high school graduation, he went to Central Washington University on a rugby scholarship. Toluta’u continued his age-group pathway, playing twice for the Junior and Collegiate All-Americans. He played for the Under-20s at the 2013 and 2014 Junior World Cup Trophy Competition. He also played in 2014 for the MCAAs against Cambridge University and the Ontario Blues. Vili has represented the USA Falcons at the Las Vegas Invitational.
The USA Rugby National team tried to convert Vili to hooker, but that was scrapped when he performed well at flanker. In 2018 he played for the Eagles against Canada on June 23 and then for the USA Selects in the Americas Pacific Challenge.
Vili has proved to be a difficult ball-carrier to tackle. He earned Player of the Week honors for the Seattle Seawolves in 2018 and he helped the team win back-to-back Major League Rugby Championships in 2018 and 2019.
Maui News indicated that Vili Toluta’u signed a one-year contract with the Free Jacks. His time with the team or if Hawaii gains a team, will impact his future decisions.
Vili said“It’s very exciting, it’s a challenge that I’m willing to take, travel all the way out to the East Coast,” Toluta’u said Monday. “I’m excited to meet the new players from all over the country and working with their head coach, Ryan Martin, and some good forwards coaches that could excel my game.
“I’m working on a new position that they see me better suited for, so I’m learning a position that I just started up maybe a year ago, but I’m up for it, whatever it is to get my name on the radar again to get on track with that World Cup squad,” he said. “Most flankers are 6-5, or tall and lanky, but for me, I wasn’t that tall — I just look taller because of my hair. … If they say that hooker best suits me, then I’m going to take that challenge.”
“They see me as a hooker, but the good thing about New England is that they say they can use me as a force as a flanker as well,” he said. “Whatever they need me at, hooker or flanker, I’m there, whatever it takes to get playing time. Or whatever is best for the team.”