Lovell Rugby chats to... Telusa Veainu
March 23, 2018
When Telusa Veainu’s taken to the field this season, you’d think he was barefoot and the grass was hot coals going by some of the footwork we’ve seen from him.
Born in New Zealand, Veainu has become a favourite with the Leicester Tigers fans since moving to the club in 2015 and will be hoping to help them to an Aviva Premeirship play-off spot over the final five rounds of the regular season. We recently caught up with the Tonga international to chat about the season to-date, his impressive stepping and the new Nike Mercurial Superfly. Here’s what he had to say…
It was a slow start to the Aviva Premiership for Leicester, but things have picked up for you guys towards the latter part of the season. What has changed and what would you put your recent form down to?
We had a slow start; we couldn’t really find our rhythm as we lost two games on the bounce but we’ve started to gel and our combinations have started to run a bit smoother. There were a few disruptions early on in the season with injuries and now that everyone is fit and healthy, we seem to be heading in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll get even better with a few of the international boys coming back and guys like Manu playing well.
You’re now sitting in 5th and the experts are tipping you guys to claim a play-off spot. Is this a target that you have set yourselves?
Yea, of course! The end goal is obviously to make the semi’s and then the final, but at the moment we are just trying to take it one game at a time. Every game we play from now until the end of the season is our final, and if we find ourselves in a play-off spot come the end then that will be great, but we are just concentrating on putting all our focus into the week ahead.
You’re playing in a star-studded backline, with the likes of Ben Youngs, George Ford, Matt Toomua and Manu Tuilagi. What’s it like playing alongside players of this quality?
When I think about it, I realise how fortunate I am to be playing with some of the best players in the world. It’s guaranteed that they will be doing their jobs very well so I just want to be at my best when I’m around them. It definitely helps me improve as you don’t want to let these guys down on the pitch and it makes you want to go and showcase your own talent to show that you deserve to be around them.
“I don’t have the ability to run over or through guys, so I have to use my feet to avoid those areas.”
Your name is the first to come up when people discuss deadly steps, but other than yourself which player would you say has the best step in the Premiership?
Someone like Christian Wade or Sinoti Sinoti – oh my gosh, have you seen his footwork!? The way he turned Jamie Short inside out a few weeks back was crazy, he is pretty lethal. Outside of the Premiership, there’s a guy called Gio Aplon who has played for South Africa and his step is ridiculous. I think every winger out there has got some good footwork and can finish but for me, my footwork is definitely my strength. I put it down to being scared… haha, I don’t have the ability to run over or through guys, so I have to use my feet to avoid those areas.
With a hand full of the guys away on onternational duty, have any of the ‘stand-in’ players impressed you?
Greg Bateman – he has been in great form and has taken his opportunities since Ellis Genge has been injured. Then you’ve got guys like Matt Toomua, who has stepped into the #10 shirt and has been nothing but professional, and Sam Harrison who is normally on the bench but has been great for us. I think collectively all the boys have stood up when it was needed.
You’ve beaten the most defenders in the Aviva Premiership this season, but who is the toughest defender you’ve come up against?
That’s tough because I don’t really run into people, the way I play is to avoid contact at all costs. When I was younger I came up against Bryan Habana; he was tough to get around and even if you did somehow get around him, he would be able to turn around and catch you no matter what.
“We have this debate every day at training!”
You’ve played Super Rugby and in the Aviva Premiership. How would you say the two competitions differ?
We have this debate every day at training! I would say the defence here is stronger, but if you look at Super Rugby and the tries that are scored, they are pretty ridiculous as they run absolutely everything. The tempo in Super Rugby is so much quicker because of the time of the year they play and the surfaces are a lot harder. Over here, the weather dictates how well you play. I find that in the Premiership it is a lot more set-piece orientated, whereas in Super Rugby it’s a case of ‘the quicker the better’ when it comes to everything. It would be great to see one of the top teams in Super Rugby taking on one of the top teams in the Aviva Premiership – it would be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Have you set yourself any personal goals for the rest of the season?
For me it’s just to do what I can to help my team. I’ve had a lot of niggling and short-term injuries, so my short-term goals would just be to get my rehab in and work on my fitness. It’s just more focusing on controlling the little things that I can control and hopefully this will give me momentum going into games.
You’ve recently taken delivery of the new Nike Mecurial Superfly. What are your first thoughts on the boot?
My first thought… I was like “OH MY GOSH! I better play well in these otherwise I don’t deserve them!” I’ve always been a fan of the Mercurial because they are light, flexible and narrow which is perfect for me. They also give me good traction when I’m at top speed and stepping. They’re probably the only boot that I can wear on match day without having to wear them in at training, so I’m a big fan.