Connacht Rugby has bagged the signature of high-profile former Otago Highlander winger Fetu'u Vainikolo.
The 26-years-old Tongan-born New Zealander has signed a two-years deal with Connacht, having been left off the Highlanders’ main squad for the 2011 Super 15 season.
Vainikolo comes with a huge reputation down under, and is the most high-profile Connacht signings to date. Charismatic, and with explosive pace, he burst into prominence when playing for Northland in the 2007 Air New Zealand Cup, scoring five tries in just 10 matches. It earned him a contract with the Highlanders where he caused a storm in his debut season, starting all 13 games and leading the side with six tries - the third highest in the competition.
Born in Tonga, Vainikolo (no relation to Gloucester’s Lesley ) moved to New Zealand when he was 12 and played rugby in Auckland before moving to the Wellsford club in Northland in 2007.
A dangerous and a lightning quick runner, many pundits believed he possessed all the attributes of a top winger. However he missed much of 2009 through injury, was censured for an incident in a bar, and struggled with poor form throughout last season’s 2010 ITM Cup, which saw him dropped from the Highlander’s 2011 squad, although he was kept in the wider training camp.
With Fionn Carr departing the Sportsground, Vainikolo's signature is a timely coup for the province, joining fellow former Super Rugby players George Naoupu and hooker Ethienne Reynecke .