He might be new to the Aviva Premiership, but Telusa Veainu is a naturally gifted player that’s contributed well to Leicester Tigers’ impressive start to the season. With four tries already to his name in only five appearances for Richard Cockerill’s side, he is certainly becoming a fan’s favourite and a key player to watch. Dangerous with ball in hand, scintillating pace and footwork that runs rings around the nimblest of defenders, it turns out an unexpected phone call is crucial in Telusa’s journey to signing for Leicester.
Out of contract with the Melbourne Rebels at the end of the Super Rugby season, the Tonga international said he had no idea what was next for his career. However a call from Tonga’s Head Coach set him upon a path to the Pacific Nations Cup, the World Cup and then eventually to Welford Road.
“The Tonga Rugby Union threw me a lifeline really. After playing Super [Rugby] I didn’t really have anything going, so when Tonga coach Mana [Otai] rang me up and said ‘Hey, do you want to play for Tonga’ obviously I said ‘Yes, I’ll play for you’.
“I didn’t really know how to feel or what I was going to experience, but really it opened my eyes to everything. I was welcomed by the boys, got back to the roots, back to the Motherland and it was good to have the senior boys there to show me the ropes.”
And it seems the New Zealand born speedster has settled well into his life in England. On a drizzly day in the Midlands, he met the press with a warming coffee in hand and spoke about discovering what the city has to offer with his new teammates. Seemingly not the way he had planned things to be, it’s hard to not recognise how grateful Telusa is of his opportunities.
“I was going to go home and get fat! Seriously, I was going to go back and chill out. The Pacific Nations Cup came so I did that and loved it, and then I was just waiting around again to see if I was going to go away for the World Cup. And then within three weeks my whole world just changed.
“It was a tough season at the Rebels, I wasn’t getting much opportunity so then coming to play at the World Cup was like from going to zero to a hundred just like that.”
Cockerill has previously mentioned how Telusa stood out in the World Cup, and how Aaron Mauger and himself could see great potential in him for the Premiership side. Having displayed some captivating rugby in both the English and European leagues, it certainly looks like he is enjoying his time both on and off the pitch.
“The Leicester boys have been so welcoming. It just shows how great the club is.
“I think I’ve fitted in really well, it didn’t take long to get here and fit in and the boys have been so helpful as well. Having not only the Tonga boys here, but someone like Taity [Matthew Tait], Colesy [Dan Cole] and the Youngs brothers, it’s great banter … It’s an awesome environment.”
And having had such an impact so far, he’s hoping he can extend his experience in the Premiership for longer than his initial year-long deal.
“I’d love to stay. Is the summer quite good here? I’d definitely love to stay here. I want to be a one club man, and what better club do it at? I want to stay and play but I guess I can only control what I can control. Like I said, I can only keep putting my best forward and if that’s good enough things will happen.”
After recently being named Tonga’s World Cup Players’ Player, it is safe to say Telusa is appreciated by not only the supporters, but his peers. He said the award was “one for the team” and clearly looks to reflect this gratitude towards his time at Welford Road by playing well and contributing further to Tigers’ success.
“When the individual is a good person, the team gets better as well.”