Whisper it quietly, but Lesley Vainikolo is starting to show the form that once made him an England international and one of the most feared wings in Europe. It would be easy simply to point to his winning try here at Kingsholm that snatched a dramatic late victory for Gloucester against the defending champions on Saturday. That was already his fifth try in seven appearances this season, but it was the impact he made that turned this game of ebb and flow in Gloucester's favour.
With Nick Robinson missing four attempts at goal Gloucester turned to "the Volcano" on 60 minutes – a replacement for Charlie Sharples – and he duly lived up to his former reputation, erupting into life to provide the dynamism his team were lacking. It has been more than two years since he was last capped for England but there were signs of the old Vainikolo as he sent tacklers reeling like skittles.
"The impact off the bench has to be big so I went out to do that. The message was just to enjoy it and do what I do, so it was important for me to get into the game straight away," he said. "England is in the back of my mind, but right now I'm only thinking of Gloucester. I have to perform each week for Gloucester and let my action do the talking."
Typically of Vainikolo, now 31, he talked up the England claims of his rivals for the wing berths at Kingsholm, James Simpson-Daniel, Sharples and Tom Voyce, though he has scored as many as all three combined this term.
His latest here on Saturday sent Gloucester to the dizzy heights of third, a remarkable turnaround, given they were panned for only managing to scrape a one-point win over Leeds in their first three games.
While Vainikolo has been scoring tries, it has been Gloucester's ability to stop their opponents from doing likewise that has reaped rewards. No team in the Premiership has conceded fewer tries than Bryan Redpath's men. That defence was put to the test by Leicester who had found tries easy to come by until arriving here, albeit without Ben Youngs and Toby Flood.
Leicester's Director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, also reckons referee Wayne Barnes did them no favours either, making the scrums a lottery, but admitted his team made too many wrong calls at the wrong time to win this one. He said: "There were some bizarre decisions from the referee but we have to look at ourselves, because we made too many bad decisions. We were missing some key players and will get better."
Gloucester: Try Vainikolo; Conversion Robinson; Penalties Robinson (4). Leicester: Penalties Twelvetrees (4).
Gloucester: O Morgan; C Sharples (L Vainikolo, 59), H Trinder, J May, J Simpson-Daniel; N Robinson, R Lawson (J Pasqualin, 67); N Wood (A Dickinson, 55), S Lawson (O Azam, 55), P Doran-Jones; J Hamilton, A Brown, B Deacon (P Buxton, 16), L Narraway (capt), A Hazell (A Qera, 63).
Leicester G Murphy (capt); S Hamilton, M Smith, A Allen, A Tuilagi; B Twelvetrees, J Grindal; M Ayerza, G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni (J White, 60-63), E Slater, G Skivington, C Newby (J Crane, 67), T Waldrom, B Woods.
Referee W Barnes.Reuse content