The Scarlets welcomed their new Tongan backline signing Iongi Viliame to Parc y Scarlets Thursday with the winger getting straight to work with a start on the bench for his new club in the big Welsh derby on Friday night.
Following the successful development of an increasing group of the Scarlets’ brightest regional talent as key Welsh internationals, the region has boosted its attacking backline for international fixtures and Six Nations rugby, by bringing in the new bright talent who says he’s delighted get his opportunity in Europe.
Spotted by the Scarlets in the summer during his outstanding IRB Churchill Cup performances, the 22 year-old Tongan wing has earned a reputation in the recent World Cup for his speed and agility.
Viewed by many in the same mould as Wales wizard Shane Williams, the 5’ 8” fast, elusive and fleet-footed winger has been billed by the Tongan coaching set-up as one of the quickest and most exciting backs to emerge from their international side in over a decade.
The 22-year utility back has played at full-back as well as on the wing for Tonga as well as with some game time at 13. Iongi has nine caps – his most recent trio coming in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand with performances for his country against the All Blacks, Canada and France in the same starting Tongan XV as new Scarlets lock Sione Timani.
Arriving in Llanelli this week Viliame Iongi – known as ‘Pila’ said he was looking forward to getting on the pitch this weekend and being part of such a strong, thriving rugby club and community.
He said: “I just want to do my very best in a Scarlets shirt, I am pleased to be here and it’s good to be part of such a professional set-up. The stadium and facilities here like the gym and indoor training are really impressive, I just want to make the very most of this opportunity.”
He caught the eye of Scarlets’ Head Coach Nigel Davies who witnessed his debut international performance for Tonga in the Churchill Cup, which saw the young flyer ably score four of his countries’ five tries against the USA in June this year.
Davies said: “He is certainly an exciting prospect for us and his attacking ability will fit in with the style and brand of rugby we seek to play. He’s impressed with his pace and will provide us with some new options. He’s been full of energy in training and we’ve put him on the bench to give us some added options for such a big game on Friday night.”
Nigel Davies added: “We’re are proud of the investment our region has made over the past two to three years in bringing forward and progressing new Welsh talent.
“However, the success of our development pathways and progression of our home-grown players to first choice international players means we have to plan carefully – considering the impact on our regional squad during international windows with a core of our squad away at key times within our season.
“Our firm vision and commitment is to bring forward our own talent – investing in our young players and giving them chances at the highest level with full support from within our rugby environment. That’s done with the support of our feeder clubs in the Premiership who work closely with us on our pathway and do an excellent job in supporting our ethos and the development of young players.
“We also recognise that we’ll require additional players from outside our region who can bring specific skill sets and experience to anchor the squad during the time we lose our players to international commitments.
“We are delighted Viliame Iongi is joining us – I think he will give us an exciting new dimension. Along with Sione Timani, we’ve now secured some new strike players in key positions who will help anchor our squad as well as add to the dynamic and energy in our team – which in turn, will have a positive influence in bringing on younger players in our squad.”
Viliame has played for Tonga U20s plus Brumbies Academy Team in Canberra. He has a Fijian mother and Tongan father.