Newcastle Falcons have landed Tuilagi brothers Alesana “Alex” and Anitelea “Andy” on two-year deals ahead of the 2014-15 Aviva Premiership season.
Samoan internationals Alesana, 33, and Anitelea, 27, who both play at either wing or centre, bring the Falcons’ tally of new signings up to eight as Dean Richards continues to mould his side for next term.
Making the switch from Japanese outfit NTT Shining Arcs, Alesana has a proven track record in English rugby’s top-flight having enjoyed a glittering eight years with Leicester Tigers between 2004 and 2012 where he lifted the Premiership trophy three times.
Widely regarded as one of the most dangerous backs to have ever graced the Premiership during his time at Welford Road, the 6ft 1” 18 stone powerhouse was the league’s top try scorer in the 2010-11 campaign with 13 tries to his name, including a match winner in the semi-final against Northampton Saints and a hat-trick at home to Gloucester Rugby.
Featuring at both the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups, Alesana was also part of the Samoa squad that recorded an historic 32-23 victory over Australia in the summer of 2011. During the 2011 tournament in New Zealand, Alesana, who launched his professional career with Parma, played in all four pool matches and bagged himself a hat-trick against Namibia.
“I’m extremely excited at the prospect of returning to the Aviva Premiership with Newcastle,” said Alesana.
“Newcastle is a big club with huge potential, and under Dean Richards there is an exciting vision for rugby in the North East which I want to be a part of.
“I really enjoyed my time in the Premiership with Leicester, and I’m delighted to get the opportunity to play in what I see as the most competitive league in the world,” he added.
Meanwhile, younger brother Anitelea joins the Falcons from RaboDirect PRO12 side Newport Gwent Dragons after spending two seasons at Rodney Parade. Like fellow siblings Manu, Freddie, Henry and Vavae, Anitelea has also pulled on the Tigers jersey and became the fourth member of the Tuilagi family to represent the East Midlands club.
Standing at 6ft and weighing in at just under 18 stone, Anitelea began his career at Leicester in 2005, spending the 2006-07 season on loan at Leeds Carnegie where he helped them win promotion to the Premiership in his first year at the club prior to moving there on a permanent basis. A move to Sale Sharks materialised in 2008 where he made 42 appearances, before the Dragons came calling for his services in 2011.
“There are certainly big things taking shape at Newcastle and it’s a club that is looking to thrive in the Premiership next season,” said Anitelea.
He added: “It’s great that the club has cemented its place in the Premiership ahead of next season, a league that a club of Newcastle’s magnitude should be playing in week in week out.
“I can’t wait to get stuck into pre-season now with my new teammates.”
“Andy and Alex are quality acquisitions and have bags of experience at the very highest level,” said Newcastle director of rugby Richards.
“I’m delighted that we have secured their services for next season, both of whom will undoubtedly add some real firepower to our backline.
“Both have real physicality and pace to burn which is exactly what you need to be successful in the Premiership, and I look forward to welcoming them to Newcastle this summer,” he added.