Vainikolo to leave Gloucester
Gloucester have confirmed that winger Lesley Vainikolo has left the club to join La Rochelle on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
The 32-year-old former England international's Kingsholm contract was set to expire at the end of the season but he has been allowed to leave immediately to join the French Pro Division 2 outfit.
Vainikolo joined Gloucester from Bradford Bulls in 2007 and made an immediate impact by scoring five tries on his debut against Leeds.
He was quickly promoted to the England squad and made his Test bow as a replacement in the defeat to Wales at the start of the 2008 RBS 6 Nations, and went on to win four further caps.
The popular Tonga-born three-quarter, nicknamed 'the Volcano', made 86 appearance for the Cherry and Whites, scoring 36 tries.
Gloucester head coach Bryan Redpath said: "No one can deny the impact that Lesley has had on Gloucester Rugby and on the English game in general.
"He adapted from league to union in no time at all and could always be relied upon to give 100% whether in his preferred position on the wing or in the centre when we asked him to.
"La Rochelle approached us to ask permission to talk to Lesley and explained that they were prepared to offer him a two-and-a-half-year contract if we were willing to allow him to leave immediately.
"Lesley has been a fantastic servant to Gloucester Rugby and, frankly, it would have been unfair of us to stand in his way. He travelled there this week for a medical and to discuss terms, and it's a great opportunity for him.
"He goes with our best wishes and our thanks. He'll always be remembered here at Kingsholm and will always be welcome."