NAMATAKULA, Fiji: Ratu Filise Rugby Club’s ragged pitch on Fiji’s Coral Coast might seem an unlikely stepping stone to international stardom but a slew of the game’s luminaries have left their mark on the patchy grass and run in tries under its slanted goalposts.
Ratu Filise’s first team train on the ground as the sun sets on a sweaty afternoon, young men dreaming of following players like Tevita Kuridrani and Nemani Nadolo, who left the quiet village life to perform on the world’s biggest stages.
“Our elders were very talented players and the new generation continues that,” head coach Etika Tovilevu told Reuters.
“Rugby is in our genes.”
Known in Fiji as “the rugby factory”, the surrounding Namatakula village has long exported talent and the locals are proud to point out the family homes of the players who made it.
Dual code international Lote Tuqiri, capped 67 times for the Wallabies, keeps a big house fringed by coconut palms on the outskirts of town.
Household names like Tuqiri and former Wallabies centre Kuridrani, now playing in France, are just the tip of the iceberg.
…. to be continued
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