Newcastle Falcons have completed the signing of Tonga and Leicester Tigers back-row forward Opeti Fonua, the club confirmed on Thursday.
The 30-year-old, capped 11 times by Tonga, stands at 6 foot 5 and weighs 135kg, with his destructive running delivering five tries in 21 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 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, with director of rugby Dean Richards delighted to bring him in.
“Opeti is a big physical specimen who will cause a lot of trouble for defences,” he said.
“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, 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.”