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Melanie Hopkins: Rugby Unites Pacific, The UK

Britain’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Melanie Hopkins, has praised the contribution of Pacific players to English rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup final in Japan, tomorrow.
01 Nov 2019 11:33
Melanie Hopkins: Rugby Unites Pacific, The UK
British High Commissioner to Fiji Melanie Hopkins (left) and South African High Commission Chargé d’Affaires Bingo Thamaga at Albert Park in Suva on October 31, 2019. Photo: Grace Narayan

Britain’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Melanie Hopkins, has praised the contribution of Pacific players to English rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup final in Japan, tomorrow.

England and South Africa meet at the Yokohama International Stadium in what is expected to be a pulsating encounter between the two rugby heavyweights.

Hopkins and South African Chargé d’Affaires Bingo Thamaga exchanged gifts and well wishes yesterday in a show of friendship between the two countries ahead of the final.

The England team have four Pacific heritage players in the squad, namely Billy and Mako Vunipola, Samoan-born Manu Tuilagi and Fijian-born Joe Cokanasiga.

There are also a number of Pacific Islanders playing in professional and semi-professional club teams across England, with many travelling to the United Kingdom through the British Army.

High Commissioner Hopkins believes the contribution of Pacific Islanders to rugby in the UK has been significant.

“It really shines the spotlight on a very special part of the UK’s relationship with the Pacific Islands, which are the British Army links,” she said.

“British Army links provide training and employment opportunities but also such a strong outlet for the shared passion of rugby and that’s something that unites the UK and Pacific Islanders.”

The two heads of missions also shared their thoughts on tomorrow’s match, adding to the hype around a highly-anticipated final.

Hopkins said: “There is a huge amount of excitement in the UK. It’s been a while since we have seen England in the final so we are really looking forward to this.

“The key player to watch will be George Ford at number 10. He’s had a great kicking record so far and will be looking to maintain that. I think it will also depend on our ability to keep that solid defence.

“I also just want to thank everyone in Fiji that has come up to us in the past week to express support for all four of the UK teams.”

Her South African counterpart, Thamaga, believes this could be South Africa’s time, 12 years after they last lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in France.

“South Africa meeting England in the final of the Rugby World Cup is a momentous event. Rugby is a nation-builder in our country and we have waited for this,” he said.

“We hope that we continue from where we left off in 1995 when we won the Rugby World Cup.

“After winning in 1995, we waited for 12 years to win it again in 2007. It is now exactly 12 years again so I think it is ours.

“I’m expecting a very defensive and close game. The only distance between South Africa and the cup is 80 minutes so it’s going to be highly tactical.

“We owe it to the whole Southern Hemisphere to make sure that we win that Web Ellis Cup.”

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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