More than Just a name

Lynn McConnell
Written by
Lynn McConnell

Author short introduction. Three to five lines of brief description.

Leicester Fainga'anuku was born during the 1999 Rugby World and named after Tonga’s exploits at the tournament.  So as Lynn McConnell explains, the new All Black was destined to play test rugby.

Leicester Fainga'anuku poses during the New Zealand All Blacks 2022 headshots session at the Park Hyatt Hotel on June 21, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Leicester Fainga'anuku poses during the New Zealand All Blacks 2022 headshots session at the Park Hyatt Hotel on June 21, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Leicester Fainga'anuku poses during the New Zealand All Blacks 2022 headshots session at the Park Hyatt Hotel on June 21, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Leicester Fainga'anuku was always going to make his name in rugby one way or another. His father Malakai Ta'ufo'ou,  who played 12 tests for Tonga between 1999-2001, made certain of that.  

It was all to do with Tonga's upset 28-25 injury-time win over Italy at the 1999 Rugby World Cup at Leicester on October 10. A day later Malakai was delivered a son so there could be no doubt how two momentous occasions should be marked – he had to be called Leicester.  

Tonga's next game was at Twickenham, against England. A notable occasion on one of the great grounds of rugby, but not a memorable result, Tonga going down 10-101, but Twickenham left its impression so that was added to his son's name. And because the memorable tournament was hosted by Wales, it was added to.  

Leicester Ofa Ki Wales Twickenham Fainga'anuku was on his way in rugby.  

There were some important family developments along the way. They moved from Tonga to Auckland soon after the millennium and then to Nelson where Malakai got involved in police work, an interest that also rubbed off on his son.

While winning All Blacks' status from the Crusaders franchise in Christchurch, the city his parents now live in, Leicester Fainga'anuku said Nelson is where he calls home.

That's where he made his mark playing for Nelson College. That connection with such a proud, and historic, rugby school had its moments, not least when rugby league offered a prospective future. In the manner of many young rugby players who make early impressions, league scouts were aware of his ability.

It didn't help rugby people that Fainga'anuku, in spite of being inspired by growing up on the deeds of the greatest Tongan rugby player of them all, Jonah Lomu, who also happened to be a left-wing colossus, that Fainga'anuku at one stage wanted to be the next Simon Mannering out of Nelson and to play in the NRL.

Continue this story in our Aug/Sep  issue.

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Lynn McConnell
Written by
Lynn McConnell

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