|Filimoni Savou offered Harrow Scholarship. |
Fiji's former U12 captain Filimoni Savou has been given the chance of a lifetime - the offer of a scholarship to Harrow School, one of the most prestigious secondary schools in the world.
"I am really happy that I have received this great honour," said Savou, who is about to start the final term of a one-year scholarship to English primary school Terrington Hall in North Yorkshire.
"I know this will make my parents and family happy and will be a big step forward in my rugby career," said the former Veiuto Primary School student whose father Josateki is assistant coach of the Digicel Fiji 7s team.
"This is what we hoped and prayed for when I left for England last year."
Harrow has a formal academy-coaching relationship with the London Wasps in the Premiership but Savou has also received invitations to train with Saracens and London Irish as well.
The school's offer is conditional on Savou passing academic tests in June.
If he passes these Savou will start at the 835-pupil school in September 2011.
Harrow, in north London, has educated seven British prime ministers including Winston Churchill and India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and continues to uphold centuries-old traditions.
All students are expected to wear strict uniforms including straw boater hats and for formal occasions a tailored topcoat, pinstripe trousers and waistcoat. If Savou is appointed a prefect in his sixth form year, he will be expected to wear a top hat and walk with a personalised cane.
Boarding fees are almost £30,000 a year, or more than F$100,000. Recent Old Harrovians include singer James Blunt, actors Cary Elwes and Doctor Who's Benedict Cumberbatch and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.
"It's been a fantastic seven months for me since I came to England in September," said Savou who also plays club rugby for the Malton U14s and is due to tour South Wales with them later in the month.
"The weather has been tough to get used to but we're getting closer to summer now and I can't wait to try playing cricket because that is something I've never done before," said Savou who says he has developed an addiction to Yorkshire Pudding, a dish made from batter that is served with roast meat and gravy.
The Harrow scholarship was negotiated by the headmaster of Terrington Hall Jon Glen who described Savou as "quite simply the best young rugby player I have had the pleasure of coaching in the last thirty years".
"Filimoni has been an immensely popular addition to the school and has given us all so much more than we could have dared to hope for since his arrival."
Savou was taken around the school in February and was introduced to the Harrow's most famous Pacific Island student sixth former Viliami 'Billy' Vunipola, who is contracted with Wasps and has played for the England U18s.
"I didn¹t get to speak that much with Billy because he was late for his lessons but it was great to meet him and to know that the school wants to develop professional rugby players," said Savou. "I will try my absolute very best to meet the academic standard I need to reach to take up this scholarship".
The trip to Harrow was organised by Fiji's former ambassador to the UK Pio Bosco Tikoisuva, who Savou said he was indebted to, as well Jon Glen and Charlie Charters, former marketing manager of the Fiji Rugby Union.
Vunipola made his first team debut for Wasps while still studying at Harrow two months ago. He is the son of former Tongan hooker Fe'ao Vunipola who moved to the UK to play professional rugby in 1998.
Charters said the selection process that saw Savou being picked to take up the Terrington Hall scholarship was handled by the FRU's Osea Umuumulovo.
"Osea and Louisa O'Connor at the Fiji Rugby Union have been absolutely fantastic," said Charters, who is now a thriller writer based in North Yorkshire.
"Terrington Hall have already confirmed they would like to source another student from Fiji for next year and we are already looking at names."
Charters' wife Vanessa - daughter of Hot Bread Kitchen founder and former MP Dr Mere Samisoni - returned from a trip to Fiji earlier in the month and brought a consignment of food for Savou, including packs of Bongos, cheese Twisties and bean-peanut.
"I almost cried when I saw the Twisties," said Savou. "They tasted better than anything".