Virimi Vakatawa, the Fijian-born Ciel et Blanc winger has just been called into the French Sevens team. In agreement with the Racing Metro 92 coaching staff, the 21 year-old Vakatawa will take off this weekend with les Bleus to play in the next two rounds of the IRB World Sevens, in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
"I'm really happy, and being picked for France means a lot to me," said Virimi in between two training sessions at French Rugby HQ, Marcoussis. "I am the first Fijian to be picked for the French Sevens team and it makes me feel very honoured and very proud."
Arriving at the club in 2010 at the age of 18, like all young Fijians, Virimi played a huge amount of Sevens growing up. Coming up through the Racing Academy before signing his pro contract with the Ciel et Blanc, Virimi will make his début in the French jersey at Tokyo's famous Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground next Saturday. What's more, it will be a veritable baptism of fire for him on the morning of March 22nd, because in a highly competitive pool with Fiji, Samoa and the USA, the very first game of the Tokyo tournament will see France come up against one of the historical heavy-weights of Rugby Sevens, Fiji. "Everyone knows Fiji has one of the best Sevens teams in the world," he admitted. "It's going to be a huge challenge for me to play against Fiji, but I'm looking forward to being there and hopefully playing in the first game against my home country."
Despite the enormity of the challenge, his coach Laurent Labit is not overly concerned.
"I'm not in the slightest worried for Virimi, he has all the qualities to succeed in Sevens," said the backs coach of the Ciel et Blanc. "Anyway, for some time now the French Sevens team have been interested by his profile. And so has the XV de France. At least this way he has now committed to France, and will no longer be able to go back and play for Fiji."
Virimi has nevertheless been given leave on one condition: if any of the Ciel et Blanc three-quarters should get injured in next week's game in Grenoble, Vakatawa will be allowed to fly back to immediately to prepare for the following game against Stade Français.
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Saturday 26th August