Tonga's Telusa Veainu turned down plenty of attractive offers to sign for Leicester Tigers

Telusa Veainu's first glimpse of the Aviva Premiership was when he switched on the TV as a teenager to see Manu Tuilagi punching Chris Ashton in the face.

He has never watched another game since.

Not through any sense of disgust at what he saw, just that he was too busy making a name for himself playing, instead of watching.

Fast-forward four years and Tuilagi is now Veainu's team-mate at a Leicester Tigers team he joined very soon after catching more than a few eyes at the World Cup with Tonga

During his country's four games in the competition, winger Veainu scored two tries, made 351 metres, eight clean breaks and beat 15 defenders.

It was not just those stats that caught the eye, though.

Veainu has been on new Tigers head coach Aaron Mauger's radar for years having grown up in Canterbury and risen through the ranks of his hometown club.

When the offer came through to join up with Mauger in Leicester, Veainu caught a plane back to England after the World Cup and turned down not only the advances of several other clubs, but also a planned intake of off-season fast food.

"I took the flight back to New Zealand after the World Cup and thought I had two or three weeks of McDonalds ahead of me," said Veainu.

"But within four days, I had to come all the way back. I was just settling into the time zone and flew to the UK to do it all again – without the McDonalds.

"I am used to Aaron Mauger because he has coached me before at Canterbury. I know the way they want to play and that is exciting.

"We want to compete to win and I am looking forward to it. I like their style. It's good running rugby.

"The history of the club also attracted me. There are lots of guys from the Super 15s who have played here before and the environment is very similar to the Crusaders.

"It's a good environment and it is all about excellence.

"I like being involved in that, so I can be the best I can be. I know my team-mates feel the same way too."

Born in New Zealand into a Tongan household, Veinau grew up supporting and knowing many members of the All Blacks squad.

When the offer of a place at the World Cup representing his parents' country came up though, he was happy to take the opportunity to make them proud.

The 24-year-old did just that with a series of standout performances and, since arriving at Welford Road, Veianu has shown the club's supporters exactly why Mauger wanted to sign him.

A try on his debut was added to with a brace in Treviso – the second one reminiscent of Jason Robinson in his pomp, all fast, dancing feet and swaying shoulders.

It is no surprise that Veainu is enjoying his rugby.

"The last four months have been a rollercoaster for me, but I am happy to be here and feel a part of it," he said.

"But I know that this is just the beginning. There is still a lot of work for me to do and focus on what I can add to the team. It is a crazy atmosphere at Welford Road. It's different to New Zealand because the fans over there are a lot calmer.

"It's awesome having them so close to the pitch at Welford Road. You can really feel their energy.

"It was really loud out there and reminded me of being in Dunedin with the roof closed.

"It's just that here in Leicester, there is no roof but it was still incredibly loud.

"The crowd is awesome and I have never experienced anything like it in my life."

Those feelings could me mutual by the end of the season.


Leicester Mercury