After two whirlwind weeks away with the French Sevens team, Ciel et Blanc winger Virimi Vakatawa was back at the club today. Scoring six tries in two tournaments, rated the best French tackler in Hong Kong, Vakatawa made an immediate impact in the French jersey. And now has his eyes fixed firmly on 2016, and the Olympic Games in Rio. (Credit photo : Julien Poupart // Attitude Rugby)
Virimi, you are just back from playing for first two World Series tournaments for the French team, in Tokyo and Hong Kong. What was the experience like?
It was a great honour to wear the French jersey for the first time. Last year, there was talk of my playing XVs for France, I was on the shortlist for the tour to New Zealand, but in the end I missed out on selection. So when I got the call to play for France 7s I realised it was an opportunity not to be missed. Especially playing Tokyo and Hong Kong, two great tournaments.
What did it feel like, playing in your very first game in Tokyo against Fiji?
It was a bit weird for me, especially as everybody knows Fiji have a great team, with so many experienced players. But I was happy to play against Fiji. We played well in that first match, and Fiji, who went on to win the competition, only beat us with a try in the last minute (22-19).Otherwise, I have to admit I was quite difficult for me. I hadn’t played Sevens for four years, I had only one training session before going to Tokyo, and I was a bit lost. So I was a bit worried on the pitch, because in Sevens if you miss one tackle you’re finished!
Sure, but you not only scored six tries in the two legs, but you were France’s best tackler in Hong Kong. Is it fair to say you have got you taste for Sevens back?
I would just like to play more, get more practice at Sevens. But I need to work on my fitness levels: in Fifteens, if you’re on the wing, you can just stay out on the sideline. But in Sevens, you have to be everywhere, and you have to run a lot more. If you start walking, you know you will just make it harder for your six teammates to defend. So it’s hard work! (Laughs)
So what is next for Virimi Vakatawa?
I’m just looking forward to last two legs of the IRB Series, in Glasgow and London with the French team. We’ve got a great bunch of players, the team is bonding well, I like the spirit of the boys, the way we play, the way we live. After that I’m keen to get back to the club, to try and get some game time if the coaches give me some time to play.
And further down the track?
Now that I’ve had a taste of international sevens, I’m keen to get a lot more. So my aim now is to be in the French team for the Olympics. I’m going to work hard, play as much for Racing as I can, and do everything I can to make the team. That’s the target now: I’m aiming for the Olympics in Rio in 2016!
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Saturday 26th August