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The United States: A welcoming place for the Fijians

The Fijian community is omnipresent in the world of rugby with players present in most European, New Zealand, Australian championships… But also in the United States where the former iconic captain of the «Flying Fijians» Osea Kolinisau is currently playing.

The 2016 Olympic champion is currently playing in the city of Houston. Osea Kolinisau is a globe-trotter, playing in France and now in the United States. The Fijian flag-bearer of the last J.O is best known for his talents in the Seven, more than 7 years in the Fiji team and nearly 1,200 points. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. What a pleasure to speak with one of the most respected players on the Rugby 7s World Series.

Hello Osea (Kolinisau), you are a 7 specialist, how did your adaptation to rugby in XV? What position do you feel most comfortable in?

I mostly play back and second center in rugby at XVs, they are my favorite positions.

This is now your third season in MLR, can you describe the American championship? What differences compared to the French championship (O. Kolinisau went through Agen during the 2010/2011 season)?

The American championship progresses from day to day. For now the main difference with the Top 14 and the ProD2 is on the physical level. French rugby is very trying, but I think that in 3, 4 years the level of the MLR will join that of the French championship.

You have travelled a lot and played many international matches, do you think one day American rugby can be one of the great nations of rugby in XVs?

Yes, I think so, I’m sure of it. We are only at the beginning of American rugby, the MLR is a new championship, with very recent franchises. We already see the progression of American rugby since the creation of the MLR.

Many people wonder where this agility of Fijian players comes from, how to explain this phenomenon?

In Fiji, from the age of 5, 6 we play rugby; we grow up with a ball. Rugby is part of our life, all children play rugby. I think having fun with a rugby ball every day helps us when we grow up.

The Fiji team will surely join the group of six nations to play tests matches in November, what do you think about this?

It is a great opportunity for Fijian rugby to face the best European and World nations like France, England, Ireland… I am really looking forward to seeing what these games will bring and I think the Fijians have a great opportunity to play.

One of the current debates in rugby news concerns the nationalization of Pacific players for other Nations, it happens in the XV (M. Tuilagi, the Savea brothers…) and in the 7s (J. Ravouvou, V. Vakatawa…) How can Pacific countries keep their players and be among the best nations in the world?

I think it’s very hard, if not impossible, for the Pacific Nations to keep all their players. Because in Fiji we don’t have a championship equivalent to the championships like the Top 14, the Premiership. There is also the financial aspect, players go abroad to earn a living, we make decisions for our future and our family. These transfers also give the opportunity to discover new countries, new cultures.

Osea, as a standout MLR player in the first 3 seasons of MLR and an Olympic gold medal winning captain, I’m sure you have many offers to play from teams in MLR and around the world. What excites you most about joining a new club and what do you feel you bring to the club you will join?

I am excited to face a new challenge, I want to discover a new club, a new culture, a new country. For my future team, I think I can bring mainly experience and leadership.

Our second interview will be with Josua Vici, a Fijian international at 7, who also went through the Houston SaberCats franchise. He currently plays in France, in the city of Colomiers, in ProD2.

Hello Josua (Vici), you were in great shape with your team of Colomiers, top of the league before the premature stop of the season, how do you think you will do next season?

Last season we were the surprise team of the season, no teams were suspicious of us, no one was waiting for us at this level. I must admit that even we did not expect to reach that level. Next season will be even harder, since we will have a different status and we will be expected by our opponents.

This will be your 2nd season in France, what are the main differences between the French and American championship?

 For me the biggest barrier was language, when I arrived at Colomiers, everyone spoke French. When I moved to France I only spoke English and Fijian dialects. On the sporting level, I find that it is at the physical level that the French championship stands out from the MLR.

Do you think the MLR can quickly reach the level of the French professional championships?

Yes for me the American championship will quickly progress, I think that in 2, 3 years, the level of the French championships and the MLR will be equivalent. American rugby is evolving.

How did your adaptation to rugby in XV when you joined the SaberCats of Houston after a passage with the « Flying Fijians »?

My adaptation was not difficult, since in Fiji I alternated between rugby at XVs and 7s, the fact of playing in Houston after playing for the Fiji national team at 7s did not cause me any problems, it was natural.

In this article we also talked with Osea (Kolinisau) can you describe him in a few words as a former teammate?

 Osea is everything for me, a humble, respectful, true leader. When I joined the Fiji team, he quickly made me comfortable. The first thing he said to me was: “You are part of the team, now you represent your country, if you are there is that you deserve it, we all have the same level here. 

Ask questions, don’t be shy”.

He’s the best captain I’ve ever known. He kept checking up on me, when I was in Houston, asking me how I felt, if everything was going well. He is really a wonderful and important person for me.

 

 

There is a strong link between the United States and Fiji. This agreement will continue with the new Hawaiian franchise that will join the MLR for the next season. American rugby continues its rise to hope to be the future organizers of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

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