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Japan, Marist team up

May 25
09:33 2013

By VUNIWAQA BOLA-BARI

When the Japan national sevens rugby side steps onto the Laucala turf next weekend, they continue a long association with Marist rugby.
The side has continued to nurture and recruit from the Marist sevens pool and the nation has had a long string of Marist players in local competition with a number of them graduating to wearing Japanese colours.
Players like Paulo Nawalu, Max Olsson, Kilive Naloli and the latest being Lote Tuqiri all former Marist Brothers High School students plying their trade in Japan at the time.
This time the side preparing for the Rugby World Cup Sevens will use the 37th Fiji Bitter Marist Sevens as their warm up for the event.
Japan Rugby Union skills coach and former St John Marist RC and national halfback Paulo Nawalu said they would be lining up as many friendly warm up matches as possible with top local sides whilst they are here before they return to Japan.
Returning to where his international career began is Lote Tuqiri, relative and namesake to the former Wallaby dual representative who both hail from Namatakula, Nadroga.
Nawalu chose Tuqiri, a former Marist Brothers High School athlete and rugby player, from last year’s 36th Fiji Bitter Marist Sevens when he was wearing Ratu Filise Memorial School colours in that memorable final against Army Green.
Tuqiri was an U19 MBHS rugby player with Nawalu’s son Manueli.
The towering playmaker, who plays for Hokkaido Barbarians in Northern Japan will represent Japan at the RWCS in Moscow next month.
In fact Nawalu has, in the past, taken schoolboys from his former school – Marist Brothers High School to take up scholarships in Japan in the past.
His first two students were Ilisoni Qiqiwaqa and Deryck Thomas.  Qiqiwaqa and Thomas graduated from Hakuoh University, the former has now settled in New Zealand while Thomas is continuing a thriving rugby career for professional side – Yamaha.
Nawalu also recruited former Suva Grammar School Deans rep Andrew Durutalo who is now a United States sevens representative.
MBHS student Inia Lesuma also graduated from Hakuoh University in Japan then returned to his island in Taveuni.
Nawalu’s son Manueli and former MBHS head boy Jese Cirikisiuva graduated from the same university and have fulltime jobs while playing semi professional rugby for Setareki Tawake’s Akita Northern Breds.
Nawalu said the Japanese, who strive for perfection, knew that the quality of games they get in Fiji will prepare them in their bid for the RWC.
He said testimony to that was the fact that they picked Lote for national duties with two Tongans Lepuha Latuila from the Kintetsu Liners, Opeti Faeamani, Fukuoka Sanix Blues and Maori player Jamie Henry who is attending university in Japan.
“The fact that they have been coming to the Marist sevens for the last three years is testimony to the quality rugby they are getting here,” he said.
Other St John Marist RC and Marist RC reps who played in Japan include Marist RC head coach Joseph Narruhn, Sirilo Lovokuro (former Fiji rep) for Hino.

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