Vainikolo managed to score 13 tries in 37 appearances in his three seasons of Super Rugby. In 2011 he joined Irish side Connacht. The 30-year old made history with the Exeter Chiefs of England when they won their Anglo-Welsh silver cup, which is better known as the LV cup.
The father of two daughters was selected in the Tongan World cup squad on 8 August. He made his Test debut on 13 August 2011 against Fiji but was on the losing side as the Fijians ran out 27-12 winners. In the 2011 World Cup Tonga famously beat France, but the islanders lost to Canada 25-20 and missed out on a first-ever quarter-final.
Raised by a single mother, with five siblings, Vainikolo dreamed of wearing his country’s red jersey. However before these aspirations he actually wanted to represent for the All Blacks. He has also been quoted saying that he looked up to New Zealand powerhouse wing Jonah Lomu. Vainikolo will be looking to impress at the World Cup for Ikale Tahi, with his explosive ball-carrying ability and pace.
The Tongans are in a tough Pool C alongside the Kiwis, Argentina, Georgia and Namibia. They are not expected to qualify beyond the pool stages but the Sea Eagles are a side not to give up and with Vainikolo in their ranks they should not be underestimated. Vainikolo and co kick off against Georgia on September 19 in Gloucester.
Photo credit: Colin Watson