|Venione Voretamaya - 3 tries in 9 matches for Albi |
Three months into the season in Europe, and six weeks after the exit of the Flying Fijians from the World Cup, thought it might be appropriate to see how the fortunes of those that went, and those that didn’t, are fairing.
Competition for team places is more intense than ever, with the arrival of the likes of Joe Rocokoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Luke McAllister from down under, to France, along with the Welsh trio of Phillips, Bryne and Hook.
Across the Channel, in the U.K., Steven Donald is perhaps the name on everyone's lips, but players from Tier 2 nations have also been snapped up after successful RWC performances, as was the case with a host of Fijians after their 2007 exploits.
So what of our Fijian players? Those that went to RWC 2011
To date there’s been varying degrees of success and disappointment depending on the player. Most have only returned to action in the last couple of weeks, after taking a well earned break, following the three months that was the World Cup and the preparation leading up to it.
Yet to feature include Albert Vulivuli, who has had to undergo surgery for knee and wrist injuries; Vereneki Goneva, "the Fijian Arrow", who has only just arrived in France at his new club, Tarbes, after visa problems (something encountered by many along with EEC work permits).
Others like Sisa Koyamaibole, Deacon Manu and Michael Tagicakibau have yet to integrate into a squad already up and running, a task that is never easy.
Gaby Lovobalavu made his first start for Toulon , in the Amlin Challenge, scoring against Lyon.
Masi Matadigo, Kini Murimurivalu and Netani Talei, along with Timoci Nagusa, Seremaia Bai and Ilisesa Bolakoro have been active a few weeks longer, either with direct starts or off the bench.
Likewise in England for Akapusi Qera and Wame Lewaravu. Those that did not make the cut
Along with Josh Matavesi, who is still learning the trade in Paris, I come back to that "rock" that is Seru Rabeni. No personal preference, but one can't keep him out of the headlines for long. This Saturday he will be on the bench for the Barbarians, along with Nemia Kenatale, against Australia.
In June he scored for them in Cardiff, making Gavin Henson look small, and also wore the 'Black and White' hoops last November for the match against the Boks. A report and interviews with those concerned, next week. Those that declined the invitation
For Leinster, Isa Nacewa has been playing out on the wing this season despite his success at '15' last year. Jone Qovu has made a storming start for Racing Metro 92 (despite their variable form) where Sireli Bobo continues to belie his age.
The other Sireli – Naqelevuki - of Exeter Chiefs, after a great start to the season, has been side-lined for at least 2 months with a broken arm. Those that stayed at home
The 'stay at homers' are the other 50 or so Fijians who make their living playing professional rugby in Europe; suffice it to say there is not space to mention everyone, but a few who warrant a mention. Top 14.
Noa Nakaitaci: holding down a place in the 1st 15 at ASM in his first season there.
Virimi Vakatawa: Finding the transition from the Academy to the top grade easy enough with 3 tries for Racing Metro already.
Timoci Matanavou: fulfilling all the expectations at Toulouse, leading Top 14 scorer, including hat-trick in one game. Pro D2.
Saula Radidi: Dax, who struggled last year, top the table with Saula's form after last year's lay-off due to injury, being a major factor.
Randall Kamea: Only made his first game for Bourgoin last weekend having been out with a twisted knee for 3 months, suffered in a pre-season friendly against Georgia; he marked it with a try.
Venione Voretamaya: three tries in nine matches, his "joie de vie" is infectious. Albi is a small town club but has always treated its Fijian players with great respect, young or old.
So where does that leave the European scene? The fall-out from the English RWC campaign continues, making those problems of Fiji seem insignificant. As the saying goes - 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall.'
Also true for the Heineken Cup and its little sister the Amlin Challenge. Both the French and English clubs have struggled, despite their riches, against the provincial sides of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, all of whom have continued to play the expansive game their national teams showed in New Zealand.
Netani Talei's try for Edinburgh set up an improbable 48-47 win against Racing Metro at the weekend, in the second round of 'H' Cup matches.
Timoci Matanavou helped Toulouse salvage some pride during the first set of games, where the Celtic nations won 8 out 10 matches when pitched against the Anglo-French. His try, and general all-round performance saw off a spirited Akapusi Qera's Gloucester .
Masi Matadigo and Montpellier are finding their 1st 'H' Cup campaign a learning curve, missing out twice on victories by the narrowest of margins.
The next two weeks sees a return to league action, before two more crucial, and deciding, European Cup clashes. All teams go 'head to head' home and away.
This weekend I shall be setting off to London to see the Barbarians and two aforementioned Fijians take on the Wallabies.
Reports on all that is good and Fijian next week.
Vinaka and moce.