Gloucester winger Lesley Vainikolo joins La Rochelle

Lesley Vainikolo
Dual code international Lesley Vainikolo won five rugby union caps for England

Gloucester winger Lesley Vainikolo has joined French Pro D2 side La Rochelle on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 32-year-old former England international would have been out of contract at the end of the season.

"He's at an age now where he needs to think about a long-term solution," Cherry and Whites head coach Bryan Redpath told BBC Gloucestershire.

"Lesley is the profile we are looking for," said La Rochelle coach Fabrice Ribeyrolles.

Dual code international Vainikolo was born in Tonga to parents from New Zealand.

He won 12 caps for the Kiwis during his 10-year stint playing rugby league before switching codes when he left Bradford Bulls to join Gloucester in 2007.

But Vainikolo qualified to play international rugby union for England because he had lived in the country for three years and received his first cap a year after arriving at Kingsholm.

He made 87 appearances for the Premiership club, scoring 36 tries, as well as playing five times for England.

"We have been thinking about strengthening our three-quarter line with a 'puncher'," added La Rochelle coach Ribeyrolles. "But we did not want to rush.

"Lesley brings many features. He has an impressive ability, both offensively and defensively.

"He is very physically fit and able to join us immediately. He showed a real desire to come and play at La Rochelle."

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