Younger generation taking their chances
01 November, 2011
|Seru Rabeni proving in France that old is still gold. |
Winter is drawing in, here in France, after a prolonged Indian summer; the evenings are dark now the clocks have gone back, and things look even darker as the Euro currency crisis rumbles on. However it is not all doom and gloom in Europe.
Last weekend saw many of the players, who were involved in Rugby World Cup (RWC) action, return to their clubs, with only those taking part in the last four still having a week's 'repos'.
Despite the force of nature the 2011 RWC proved to be the leagues continued unabated in the Northern Hemisphere; we are now in 'Day 9' in both France and England, while the Celtic nations have seen seen seven matches each. In the absence of the World Cup stars a new, younger generation of potential stars have been taking their chance, along with the older hands who were not invited to the 'Ball'.
Amongst them, several Fijians should be noted. Of the 'young guns', Alex Rokobaro (Stade Francais), Noa Nakaitica (ASM), Saimoni Vaka at Agen, Venione Tamaya of Pro D2 Albi, Seremaia Buroto (Biarritz) and Josh Matavesi (RCM).
Their average age is 22, and will be 26 come RWC 2015. Of the 'old guard' or not so old, Jone Qovu (RCM) has had a blistering start to the season; Sireli Naqelevuki (Exeter Chiefs) always dependable and Timoci Matanavou of Toulouse, currently the leading scorer in the Top 14 with 5 tries, including a hat-trick last weekend in 15 minutes. There are many other Fijians, 50 or so in all in France, both young and old showing their professionalism at the top level.
Of the other returning Flying Fijian RWC squad members, both Masi Matadigo and Netani Talei had first starts as did Iliesa Keresoni at newly promoted Perigeux (Pro D2), while Messers Kini Murimurivulu, Timoci Nagusa, Ilikena Bolakoro and Akapusi Qera have been putting aside the disappointments of New Zealand for a few weeks now.
Two names have been, deliberately, left to the end, the youngest and the oldest players amongst those Fijians currently contracted to French professional teams. Both were instrumental in the away wins of their respective teams, scoring decisive tries and also being selected as player of the week in Pro D2 and Top14 respectively.
In order of seniority, Seru Rabeni, showed that at 31, he still has both the defence and attacking flair to continue to perform for a few years more. He chose to stay with relegated La Rochelle, in Pro D2, despite other offers.
The Top 14 'Oscar' of the week went to Naitasiri lad, Virimi Vakatawa, who at 19, belies his age and inexperience at the top level; four tries in his first season already; the French have found a new Fijian star to fall in love with. An audacious player, who possesses a ton of talent, and the flair to go with it.
If the proposed quota system for the National team is implemented, there are still a few 'foreign' players who should get a 'look-in'.
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