As a boost to the squad for the rest of the season and beyond during international fixtures, the Scarlets have secured new talent in their backline after signing Tongan wing, Viliame Iongi.
Spotted by the Scarlets in the summer during his outstanding Churchill Cup performances, the 22-year-old Tongan wing earned a reputation in the recent World Cup for his speed and agility. Iongi signed a long-term contract with the Scarlets this week and is expected to arrive at Parc y Scarlets from Auckland in the next fortnight to join his new teammates in early November.
Viewed by many in the same mould as Wales wizard Shane Williams, the diminuative, 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 young utility back has played at fullback and outside centre as well as on the wing for Tonga and has nine caps for his country - his most recent trio coming in the 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.
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.
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."
"The Scarlets are proud of the investment our region has made over the past two to three years in bringing forward and progressing new Welsh talent – which has been so evident from the impact of our Scarlets for Wales in the World Cup," he said.
The Scarlets head coach added: "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.
"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," Davies explained.
He explained: "We've kept our minds open to opportunities and carefully considered our options. We're also aware of the market fluctuations pre and post World Cup, and worked within our means to secure signings at the right time which complement and fit our core squad and the Scarlets' brand of rugby.
"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,"
Iongi has played for Tonga Under-20s plus the Brumbies academy team in Canberra. He has a Fijian mother and Tongan father.
Iongi expressed his excitement to be joining the Scarlets: "It's is a great opportunity for me and as my first professional rugby contract, I'm now going to get the chance to play in Europe and hope the way I play will fit in well with their style.
He added: "I'm looking forward to being part of such a professional set-up and will give it everything I can. The Scarlets play great rugby and I'm looking forward to being part of the team."
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