Newcastle Falcons have completed the signing of Tonga and Leicester Tigers back-row forward Opeti Fonua.
The 30-year-old, capped 11 times by Tonga, stands at 6 foot 5 and weighs 135kg, his destructive running delivering five tries in 21 Aviva Premiership appearances over the past two seasons. Touching down a further 11 times in his 21 European outings, Fonua arrived in England after seven seasons with French clubs Agen and Bayonne.
Making his international debut in 2009, the back-row man played for Tonga during Rugby World Cup 2015 and was involved in this year’s June internationals, scoring in his last two tests against Georgia and Samoa.
He joins fellow Tongan internationals Nili Latu, Sonatane Takulua and Taione Vea in the Falcons’ squad, director of rugby Dean Richards saying: “Opeti is a big physical specimen who will cause a lot of trouble for defences.
“He strung together a good series of appearances for Leicester at the end of last season as well as featuring strongly for Tonga during their summer international programme, and he is already up here training with us.
“Through our network of Tongan international players we have been able to get a good picture of Opeti, both from a playing and a character standpoint.
“He gives us a different dimension, he is already experienced in Premiership rugby and he is looking good. We look forward to seeing the contribution he will make to our team and I am sure our supporters will enjoy his very direct approach.”
Speaking from Kingston Park Stadium, Fonua said: “It is an honour to be joining Newcastle Falcons, and I hope I can play a big part in lifting the club.
“Things are in place for the Falcons to have a big year, and the fact that many of Tonga’s best players are already in the squad here was a big part in my decision. I have been up here for a few days already to get things sorted, and I have been impressed by the boys and the set-up.”
Newcastle Falcons opened their pre-season account last weekend with a 50-12 win over Nottingham, and are in action on Saturday when Greene King IPA Championship finalists Doncaster Knights visit Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
This game is included in the package for 2016-17 season ticket members. Non-season ticket members can gain entry for £20 premium seating, £10 standard seating and standing or £5 for under-16s by calling 0871 226 6060. Supporters registering or updating their details to receive the club’s ezine qualify for a free ticket if booked before Friday at 2pm - tickets on a strictly collection basis.