Waikato lock Brian Alainu'uese to team up with Dave Rennie after extending Glasgow Warriors deal
Big Brian Alainu'uese is big in stature and personality and will be sorely missed in Waikato after extending his stay at Glasgow Warriors.
The Mooloos lock won two Super Rugby caps under Dave Rennie in 2015 and has another chance to impress the departing Chiefs coach, who takes the reins at Glasgow for their next season starting in September.
Alainu'uese, 23, has inked a two-year deal that keeps him with the Warriors until at least May 2019, subject to a visa clearance, after signing on a short-term contract last October.
Waikato Rugby have released Alainu'uese from his Mooloos contract for 2017 and allowed the 2.02m lock, who weighs over 130kg, to sign professional forms for Glasgow.
Alainu'uese cracked Super Rugby two years ago - after his Waikato debut in 2013 - when he was called up as injury cover for the Chiefs, but he wasn't signed up in 2016 and, like so many Kiwis dotted around the rugby world, has jumped at an offer from abroad.
Waikato head coach Sean Botherway said Alainu'uese was hugely popular among their squad and admitted there were mixed emotions about him leaving.
"It's awesome that another one of our Waikato lads can realise his dream of playing professional rugby," he said.
"I guess there's a little bit of sadness that he's not able to do that here in New Zealand because we lose a really important part of what we've been about over the last few years.
"He had some unique interests. He loved his country music and while he was big man, he had some really soft touches about him."
A former student of the fabled Wesley College, which is known for producing All Blacks like Jonah Lomu, Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau and Stephen Donald, Alainu'uese has battled through adversity in his young career after desperately struggling with ankle and shoulder injuries.
Alainu'uese, one of 15 siblings, also lost his father last year but the 2016 season was his best to date, as he started eight of Waikato's 10 Mitre Cup matches.
BREAKING: Brian Alainu'uese has signed a new two-year contract with the club keeping him at Scotstoun until at least May 2019! pic.twitter.com/fNNVeSliV4— Glasgow Warriors 🏉 (@GlasgowWarriors) April 18, 2017
Botherway reflected on how positive Alainu'uese was battling through the tough times.
"People really admired what he pushed through to get to where he is now," he said.
"Just seeing how hard he worked when he suffered the shoulder injury after spending so much time out with his ankle surgery.
"I always remembered how positive he was and how hard he worked when people weren't watching."
Alainu'uese, who was born in Invercargill and played for Waikato's University club, was voted Glasgow's player of the month in March and has become a fan favourite in the 15 caps he's made.
But the big man has endeared himself to Glasgow's faithful as the Warriors scrap with opposition from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy in Pro12, as well as competing in the European Champions Cup, where they lost to English and European champions Saracens 38-13 in the quarter-finals earlier this month.
🗣 Brian Alainu'uese: “I have to pinch myself when the supporters chant my name, I’ve never had that before"— Glasgow Warriors 🏉 (@GlasgowWarriors) April 18, 2017
Waikato Rugby general manager Blair Foote said Alainu'uese's departure, which comes after Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara joined up with Bordeaux Bègles and Jason Robertson prepares to play for Tokyo Gas, proves the union is providing a platform for players to develop their careers.
"Ultimately what these guys are looking for is a full-time professional career and if they can't that here, for the ones who've got bigger ambitions, they've got to go offshore," he said.
"We like to see ourselves as a developing union. We're realists and we obviously want them to perform well for us but we also want to be seen as someone that can provide a realistic pathway for these players if they're capable."