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Yanuyanutawa: Wallabies Should Play Fiji In Fiji

Yanuyanutawa: Wallabies Should Play Fiji In Fiji
August 19
13:37 2017

Former Fijian international and Brumbies prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa says that the Super Rugby games played in Fiji highlights the appetite his homeland has for professional rugby, and says he’d love to see the Wallabies play there.

The All Blacks have long profited from a production line of the Pacific’s top talent eager to move to New Zealand in the search for a professional Rugby career, and in 2015 they responded by playing a Test match against Samoa in Apia, while the Chiefs and Crusaders game in Suva was the competition’s second match in the rugby-mad country.

But Australia itself can draw upon a strong link to the Pacific. The 2015 Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squad included players of Fijian descent (TevitaKuridrani, Henry Speight), Papua New Guinean descent (Will Genia), Samoan descent (Christian Leali’ifano, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, Joe Tomane and Matt Toomua) and Tongan descent (Israel Folau, SekopeKepu, WycliffPalu and TatafuPolota-Nau).

Many Aussie kids grew up worshipping the on-field exploits of ToutaiKefu, ViliamiOfahengaue, RadikeSamo and the ‘human skewer’ himself Ili Tabua, while SamuKerevi and TaqeleNaiyaravoro featured in the June series against England.

So just how big would it be if the Australians took a Test to the islands?

“I’d love to see the Wallabies play in Fiji; just the impact it would have on the nation would be huge,” Yanuyanutawa told RUPA. “Rugby generates such a good feeling in the country, and when Fiji is doing well and performing on the big stage it has a massive impact and makes the nation feel good about itself.

“Most people probably wouldn’t see the benefits (of playing a Test match there) because they would fly in and out within a short space of time, but the week leading up to a game and then the positivity generated afterwards would be awesome.

“To see that, if it ever does eventuate, would be amazing and it would be something Australian Rugby could do to be able to contribute to the whole country, not just Fijian Rugby. Having the Wallabies there would be such a buzz and would generate so much hype, and really empower the nation; that’s the power of what sport can do and Fijians do truly love their Rugby.”

Yanuyanutawa has recently returned to Australia after playing professionally in the UK in recent years with London Irish and Glasgow Warriors.

Yanuyanutawa and Taqele were teammates at Glasgow before the bustling Wallabies winger returned to Australia and scored his first Test try and while Taqele has managed to avoid the media spotlight a little despite his meteoric rise, Yanuyanutawa provided some further insight into one of Australia’s most promising outside backs.

“Taqele and I do talk, I’ll call him up and we message each other; we try not to make it too serious and we laugh about things,” Jerry says. “He’s a very shy young man, but he’s also quite a loyal kind of guy.

“In Glasgow, I noticed that he’s very Fijian; as much as he’s played for the Wallabies, he’s still a Fijian boy. While he does shy away from things like media, I think he’s just enjoying the ride (of playing professionally). He has a beautiful wife and two kids, and he holds his family and his mates very dear to him.”

Yanuyanutawa is now teaching physical education at Canberra’s John Paul College, and after devoting so much time himself to preparing for life after Rugby he is more than happy to get involved in a mentoring capacity with today’s professionals, especially the 36percent who come from a Pasifika background.

“You know, it’s definitely something I’d love to do, but I wouldn’t want to force myself on anybody,” he says. “If there was a genuine capacity to be involved in that respect I’d be more than happy to help out.

“It’s great seeing so many islander rugby players making a name for themselves in Super Rugby. I’m sure they are mentors in their own rights as well as having other mentors of their own, and I think their communities would be very proud of them. I am passionate about helping Pacific Islander rugby players to realise the opportunities they have as a professional Rugby player, not just on the field.

“(I want) to help them set themselves for life after rugby,” he continues. “Rugby does have a lot of skills that can translate into the real world, and I think that’s something I’d like to empower young Islander Rugby players to be aware of.

“If they understand that they have transferrable skills, then it’s just about having the confidence (to use them), seeking out knowledge and building their appetites so they know what they want to achieve later in life after rugby.”

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