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Aholeilei joins Welsh revolution

Tonga prop Eddie Aholeilei has signed for London Welsh, becoming the Aviva Premiership new boys' 22nd summer recruit.

The 32-year-old makes the switch from Super 15 side Melbourne Rebels, following swiftly on from The Exiles' capture of former All Black Piri Weepu.

Aholeilei has won six caps for Tonga, and will link up with international team-mate Taione Vea at the Old Deer Park outfit.

The versatile Auckland-born front-rower can feature on either side of the scrum, and further swells Welsh's ranks that now also include Olly Barkley, Argentina prop Pablo Henn and ex-Brumbies loose-forward Lachlan McCaffrey.

London Welsh boss Justin Burnell said he had been trailing Aholeilei for some time.

"I watched him first-hand against Wales in the autumn at the Millennium Stadium," said head coach Burnell.

"He's got Super 15 experience, is a very big powerful man and is another excellent addition to our squad for next season."

Aholeilei moved to Sydney as a teenager, racking up more than 200 appearances for Manly Marlins between 2001 and 2013 while stepping up to Super 15 level with the Rebels in 2012.

Gearing up for his Premiership switch, Aholeilei said: "I would like to thank London Welsh for giving me this opportunity.

"I am honoured and humbled to be heading to England to represent the club in what is undoubtedly one of the toughest domestic competitions in world rugby.

"I know London Welsh has a very proud history and I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead.

"The move represents a fantastic chance for me to enjoy a fresh start and for my family to experience a different country and culture."

World Cup-winning scrum-half Weepu and ex-England playmaker Barkley represent Welsh's most high-profile recruits of a hectic off-season, with former Sale and Worcester lock Dean Schofield also now among the ranks.

Burnell has had to revamp the squad after Welsh edged past favourites Bristol to promotion back to the Premiership.

Former Gloucester hooker Koree Britton and Harlequins centre Tim Molenaar have also made the switch, with Welsh once again hosting home Premiership matches at Oxford's Kassam Stadium.


From Belfast Telegraph