Momo’s Big Moment

“When everyone is busy watching the game I would often think or tell myself that one day I’ll wear that white jersey and play alongside Kunatani and Botitu.
19 May 2020 14:45
Momo’s Big Moment
Epeli Momo (left) with his uncle Akuila Tuivuna during breakfast at Korobebe Village in Nadi on May 17, 2020.


The Fiji Airways Fijian 7s head coach Gareth Baber’s phone call was what Swire Shipping Fijian Warriors winger Epeli Namuamua had been waiting for.

Fondly known as Epeli Momo among rugby fans, the former Fijian Under-20 rep had put on an impressive performance while playing for the Warriors and the Fijian Latui side, early this year.

This prompted Baber to invite him to join the Fijian 7s extended training squad to prepare for the remaining 2019/20 World Sevens tournaments and next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Speaking to SUNports yesterday the Yaloku, Ba native, never dreamed of the opportunity to train with his childhood idols.

“I was shocked because I never dreamt that I will be selected into the sevens training squad,” Momo said.

“I didn’t it believe for a few seconds until reality settled in as I realised that Baber was on the other end of the phone talking to me.

“I thank God that Baber believes in the talent that I have and gave me the opportunity to join the training squad for the remaining series tournaments and the Olympic Games.”

Momo said for his rugby career he had planned to take things one step at a time.

He indicated that French bound Vilimoni Botitu was the first from his village to play for the Fijian 7s team.

“Back in the village while the Fiji sevens team play we would all gather at one particular house to watch and I always love the way Semi Kunatani plays. He inspired me a lot.

“When everyone is busy watching the game I would often think or tell myself that one day I’ll wear that white jersey and play alongside Kunatani and Botitu.

“At times when I’m at my farm, I always sit and dream of this opportunity.

“Looking back I guess I’ve made it to the training squad and achieved something that I always wanted to do.

“When Botitu started playing for Fiji in the under-20 and sevens rugby he often invited me to train with him. We would do our gym sessions together.

“I always tell Boti that one day I will also wear that jersey.  He then encouraged me to keep working hard and to be patient because behind those hard yards there is something good waiting.

“I kept those words and worked hard until I was selected to the Fiji under-20 team and now I will be training with the sevens team along with Boti.”

The warden officer said for him the transition to play from 15s to 7s rugby would not be hard and he’s keen to learn more.

“I understand it is a new environment for me because I only played fifteens rugby so switching to sevens should be easy because it involves a rugby ball but only with seven players playing,” Momo said.

“The only challenge for me is the fitness aspect of the game.

“I have to train harder than what I’m doing.

“I will have to be fit because there are only seven players playing and covering 100 metres of a rugby pitch which is very tough.

“The environment will be new for me and I’m ready to adapt and learn from the senior players in the squad.

“My aim is to go in and learn as much as I can from the experienced players.”

Momo said he had been training for a while and lifting his fitness level from the time he was playing for Latui and Warriors.

“The lockdown helped me recover well from those niggling injuries,” he said.

“The COVID-19 lockdown has also given me more time to prepare myself physically and mentally towards joining the sevens camp.

“If given the chance I will try harder to make the team for the Tokyo Olympic Games because that is the biggest stage of them all.

“Winning an Olympic gold medal will be huge for me because I want to create history and legacy for my people back in the village. It will also help me in securing a contract overseas,” Momo added.

“After the Olympics, I will turn my focus on trying to play for Flying Fijians in Test matches and will work towards making the 2023 Rugby World Cup squad to France.”

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua


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