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The extraordinarily talented Davies brothers: Two very different personalities and their chances of playing together for Wales again

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Someone once reckoned the best evidence that time travel is impossible is that we haven’t been invaded by tourists from the future.

But, still, let’s imagine it were possible to set the DeLorean to 2010 and head for Carmarthen Quins on match day.

Instantly, the assumption is, anyone making such a journey would recognise the Quins No. 7 doing his stuff on the pitch.

But if our intrepid traveller wandered into the dressing room the chances are he would be more than a bit perplexed.

For James Davies appeared cut from a different cloth a decade or so ago. Whisper it, but one of Welsh rugby’s most colourful characters was seen as being quiet. Diffident, even.

He had yet to morph into the exuberant character he is today, with a persona bright enough to shine through at the Olympics in 2016, when he competed for Britain in the rugby sevens, later recalling, tongue in cheek: “You go for food and stuff and you are sat next to Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt is walking in — us three got asked for photos a lot in the village.”

A world away from his early days at Carmarthen Quins.

“He was really shy,” recalled the club’s rugby manager Steff Thomas.

“The first time he came over to us he brought his dad with him and the second time, when we were discussing a match fee, he brought his brother Jonathan across.

“James was just very quiet — a head-down, looking-at-the-floor sort of boy — an introvert, almost.

“It’s amazing to see how he’s grown as a person.”

James and Jonathan Davies with their dad at an NFL game at Wembley
James and Jonathan Davies with their dad at an NFL game at Wembley

BIG BROTHER AND ALL THAT

Much water, indeed, has passed under the Loughor Bridge since.

Last summer the siblings, who are currently both recovering from injuries, created history when they took the field for Wales against England in Cardiff.

Never before had two brothers played together for Wales while featuring at club or regional level for either Llanelli or the Scarlets. Understandably, it meant a huge amount to them and their parents.

Jonathan, of course, had long since scaled the heights, boasting a CV with a ‘man of the series, Lions v New Zealand, 2017’ entry.

But it’s to his immense credit he has always looked out for his younger brother, always wanted to him to succeed.

“Jonathan is a smashing guy who is always happy to stop and talk,” said Les Williams, master stats man and historian of Llanelli rugby and everything to do with it.

“When James won his first cap in 2018 I bumped into Jonathan in the car park and he couldn’t have been happier for his brother, saying: ‘I hope one day we get the chance to play in the same team’.

“It was brilliant when it happened.

“They are like chalk and cheese in many ways but both are good boys.”

James Davies in action during the Hong Kong Sevens in 2014

DIFFERENT SORTS

It’s strange how two brothers can be so different.

If Jonathan has made a false step in a media interview, someone really ought to tell us when and where such an event took place. He is confident, sure-footed and says the right things, a press officer’s dream.

When the 80-cap centre speaks with the media, the aforementioned press officer knows there are not going to be banner headlines the next morning above a story that contains outrageous quotes or observations.

It is fair to say different rules apply with Davies junior.

His response in 2018 as to why Wales were producing so may outstanding opensides was one that could best be classed as post-watershed, involving as it did a line that some, er, politically incorrect comics at the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club back in the day might have thought twice about unleashing on the punters.

And there’s the ‘Cubby Boi’ tattoo on his knuckles, a work of art that reputedly came about as a result of a £1,000 bet with Rhys Priestland ahead of a lads’ trip to Las Vegas.

James celebrates winning the PRO12

Cubby, as Davies the younger is known, was also hit by a three-week suspension after using foul language and making an obscene gesture during a European Champions Cup match — “what I did was the most stupid thing I have done on a rugby field,” he admitted later.

But within weeks of returning from his ban he encountered more controversy when he was accused of diving after being on the wrong end of a slap from Saracens lock Will Skelton.

An angry Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall piled in, declaring he would be devastated if any of his players acted that way, while former England hooker Brian Moore accused Davies of ‘cheating by exaggeration’ and urged World Rugby and referees to act to stop diving creeping into the sport.

Davies’s response? A tweet showing Skelton’s head photoshopped on a boxer’s body with a smiling Davies laying prone on the canvas and McCall and Moore watching on.

The most highly-paid media officer could not have done better,

Clever use of humour had defused a tricky situation, while Davies junior showed enough maturity thereafter for Wayne Pivac to say the player had grown into a leadership role at the Scarlets.

FOXY AND CUBBY

Brothers James Davies and Jonathan Davies during training

It’s quite some distance from those early days with Carmarthen Quins.

“I think his confidence grew as he developed as a rugby player,” said Steff Thomas.

“He became a joker and was well liked at the club.

“He coined the phrase ‘Q for ever’ as in Quins for life.

“When time allows, we see him at the odd game, while he’s still in touch with many of the boys he played with, which says a lot about him. I think he remembers his time at Quins very fondly.

“I know Jonathan a bit, too, and it’s quite sobering when you have a chat with him. Although he has a bit of banter in him, he’s quite serious and plays it by the book, whereas James is different.

“That said, there’s the potential for James to be misunderstood.

“But he’s been true to himself and strong enough to be himself, which is important.”

The two brothers famously acquired their nicknames as their parents ran the Fox and Hounds pub in Bancyfelin. Jonathan became known as ‘Foxy’, with James ending up as ‘Cubby’.

The tales of the two battling in the garden are well known, with James once telling The Guardian: “Luckily the pub had a nice big park area which was our back garden. There were no iPhones or iPads so me and my brother would just be out playing football and rugby. That’s where my skill levels come from.”

Who usually won? “Silly question. I used to run rings around him. Whenever anyone scored a screamer in football they had to lie on their back like Paul Gascoigne and be squirted with water bottles. Good times.”

But the two were to take different roads to the top.

Jonathan’s progress was seamless: a Test debut at 21, two Lions tours, a stint as his region’s captain, a lorryload of caps for Wales, time abroad and back home.

By contrast, James was not even offered a professional contract until he was 23.

But he gives the impression of having enjoyed it all.

In that Guardian interview he came up with the line that might be one day be seen as his rugby epitaph: “I’d rather have fun and eventually achieve my goal rather than be more boring and have a lot more caps.”

A PRICE FOR EXUBERANCE?

Has his exuberant personality really denied him more Test outings?

“I wouldn’t say so,” says Steff Thomas.

“He’s been playing during a time when there’s been a queue of candidates for the seven jersey, some of them world-class, like Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric.

“Maybe people are just looking for something that’s not there rather than looking at the real picture.

“James has probably learned to harness his character and use some of the banter and all the rest at the right time.

“But it’s all part of growing up and learning.”

Along the way there have been challenges for Davies to deal with. “Ah,” laughs Thomas. “I remember we were out on a Quins social and were sat at the bar when some guy clocked James with his baby face and started picking on him.

“This guy kept going on and on.

“James got up and I thought he was going to the toilet.

“I said: ‘If you are going to the toilet, go the proper way. Don’t be scared of that man’.

“He said: ‘No, I’m not going to the toilet. I’m going this way’.

“He went past me and over to the guy. They went eyeball to eyeball before James gave him a few taps and that was the end of it.

“We were all sitting there, open-mouthed.

“James loves that story. He exaggerates it, too, saying no one had sorted out that guy in 20 years.”

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THE CUT-ABOVE CUB

Thomas continues: “What I remember James for most is his rugby.

“I went to watch an age-grade match and there was this kid who was clearly a cut above.

“He was tremendous, even at that young age.

“What caught my eye was his ability to jackal. It set him apart an absolute mile.

“He was so gutsy and willing to put himself in positions where other kids wouldn’t go.

“After we signed him, there were four or five turnovers a game — minimum. It’s always been his number one quality on the field, that ability to steal opposition ball.

“He fought his way into the team and established himself.

“But you could see he always had more in him.”

Jonathan Davies celebrates with the Six Nations trophy after title success with Wales

FORTUNATE

Jonathan once declared James to be the better rugby player of the two.

That might surprise some, coming from a man who has excelled on the last two Lions tours.

Let’s just say they are both top-drawer at what they do.

James is recovering from hip surgery right now, with Jonathan on the mend after the knee injury he sustained at the World Cup. But the hope is both will be fit for the autumn.

Will they play for Wales together again?

Where’s that old crystal ball when you need it most?

But let’s be bold and say there seems a decent chance.

When rugby does spring back into life, the expectation is there’ll be a glut of internationals to follow, with Test rugby important in funding the rest of the sport.

Rotation might be the name of the game and so a significant pool of players could be involved.

Whatever, it will just be good to see the two brothers back on the pitch.

When they are fit and firing, Welsh rugby is a better place.



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7s World Cup

HSBC Canada Sevens Edmonton: Schedule, live stream, how to watch rugby sevens, Previews

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Edmonton 7s Rugby

The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Canada makes its move from Vancouver to Edmonton this weekend for the next round of the international competition. Featuring 12 nations, including a handful of guest invitations, the South Africa 7s will look to win this round after finishing first in Vancouver. They hold a two-point lead over the Kenya 7s, with Great Britain rounding out the top three.

  • What: HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – Edmonton
  • When: Saturday, September 25 – Sunday, September 26, 2021
  • Where: Commonwealth Stadium – Edmonton, Alberta
  • TV Broadcast: NBC (United States)
  • Live Stream: Watch LIVE Coverage

2021 Rugby Sevens in Edmonton Preview

In the Vancouver series last weekend, there were a number of truly dominant performances. A number of them coming from the Springboks of South Africa on their way to taking the event. The United States and Canada Rugby 7s both had decent runs, but they each were bounced in the Cup Quarter Finals.

Set on a path to see each other again in the fifth-place match, the Eagles got the better of Canada 26-7. It was the second time of the weekend that the Canadians fell to the United States at the event. In Edmonton, they’ll surely look for a change of fortune.

After a slow start, Kenya really came on, only losing twice in Vancouver, both times to South Africa, including in the final.

Pool A Pool B Pool C
South Africa Kenya Great Britain
Canada United States Ireland
Hong Kong Chile Germany
Mexico Spain Jamaica

How to Watch the Edmonton Rugby Sevens 7s  from anywhere?

In most of North America, NBC will have broadcast coverage of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Preview. Canada is the only exception, with coverage being provided with the CBC player. Unfortunately, if you’re abroad, access to American coverage may not be accessible through these channels. In this case, we recommend you check out PremiumTV.

A non-contract, non-subscription service, PremiumTV brings you the biggest events in sports and entertainment from around the world, with no VPN required. You can stream the entire tournament in full HD with PremiumTV for just 9.99

HSBC Canda Rugby 7s Edmonton Schedule

A mental and physical gauntlet, each of the twelve teams will play in pool-play tests on Saturday within a total span of 10 hours. Pool A is headlined by Canada and South Africa, while the Americans and Kenya look strong in Pool B. Great Britain will have its hands full with Germany and Ireland in Pool C, two teams that finished fourth and ninth in Vancouver respectively.

Round Date / Time (Eastern)
Pool Play Saturday, September 25, 2021
12:44 p.m. – 9:33 p.m.
Quarter-finals Sunday, September 26, 2021
12:20 p.m. – 1:26 p.m.
9th Place Semi-finals Sunday, September 26, 2021
1:58 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.
5th Place Semi-finals Sunday, September 26, 2021
3:36 p.m. – 3:58 p.m.
Semi-Finals Sunday, September 26, 2021
4:20 p.m. – 4:42 p.m.
11th Place Play-off Sunday, September 26, 2021
5:14 p.m.
9th Place Play-off Sunday, September 26, 2021
5:36 p.m.
7th Place Play-off Sunday, September 26, 2021
6:20 p.m.
5th Place Play-off Sunday, September 26, 2021
7:07 p.m.
3rd Place Play-off Sunday, September 26, 2021
7:31 p.m.
Final Sunday, September 26, 2021
8:28 p.m.



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Eve Higgins mixing criminology with Ireland’s World Cup quest

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Since the days she was a student at Coláiste Cois Lifé in Lucan, Eve Higgins has become accustomed to her sporting life and education sometimes getting in the way of each other. This month has been no different, the 22-year-old on international duty with the Irish rugby team in Parma when she should be starting her Masters in Criminology & Criminal Justice in UCD.

“I’ve just been flat out doing my reading when I’ve had time off, like during the recovery day on Monday, just focussing on what I can catch up on when I’m not at home,” she says. “Enjoying it.”

Why criminology?

“I don’t know, since I was a teenager it’s what I always wanted to do. I was always in to crime fiction, crime TV, crime movies, the reason I went to college in the first place for my undergrad was to do a post-grad in criminology. I can’t really explain it, it’s just an interest I’ve always had.”

Favourite crime novelist?

“I was obsessed with Patricia Cornwell for a while, the Kay Scarpetta series, I’ve got about 12 of the books.”

Favourite TV detective?

“Well, my favourite movie is Silence of the Lambs, I know it’s not TV. That’s what sticks out, my love for that movie.”

She laughs at the criminology Q&A session which comes after her reflections on Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign thus far and a look ahead to Saturday’s critical meeting with Scotland.

Having missed out on a place in the team that produced a shocker of a performance in the defeat by Spain in their opening game, Higgins was one of four changes made by Adam Griggs for last Sunday’s meeting with Italy, a 15-7 victory reviving their hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

The performance against Italy was a whole lot better than the week before, but Higgins admits that there’s plenty of room for improvement yet. “We’ve created a lot of chances, but just haven’t executed them,” she says. “We were still frustrated with ourselves in that Italy game because we left a few tries out there. We’re just not pulling the trigger and we know how devastating our backline can be, from set-pieces and open play. We just want to take more of our chances and put scores on the board. We still want to right some wrongs, even from the Italy game.”

Familiar opponents

Scotland should, of course, be familiar opponents, but, due to the Six Nations being disrupted by Covid, they haven’t played Ireland since February of last year. Higgins has never met them in a 15s match, only making her debut in that code back in April, having won 20 caps by then for the Sevens.

“It’s a huge gap, alright, we’ll take that in to our preparations, look at what they’ve done in the last few months,” says the Railway Union centre. “Because of that break we can’t really look that far in to the past, we’re very much in the present. But I have played against a few of their players, the majority of their backline play Sevens, so at least I have a certain feel for them. That’s the danger with any team you come up against, they can throw something new at you, but we’re just going to control what we can control so that we can answer anything that comes our way this weekend.”

Griggs was especially pleased with his team’s defensive work against Italy, Higgins playing no small part in that effort, although she says it’s an area of her game that still needs work.

“That’s the biggest difference between Sevens and the 15s: defence. Your whole attitude towards defence in the 15s is different, you’re not just trying to guide them out, you’re going to them. It took me a while to get in to it, but I’m trying to improve it every game. You can do so much in training but you can’t really recreate game-like scenarios. It was unfortunate that we just had the three Six Nations games this year, I just wanted it to keep going, just to get in to the swing of things.

“Our training session before the Italy game was heavily based on defence, so I just tried to show what I could bring to the team in that area. I was grateful I got the opportunity to be out there and I obviously wanted to make the most of it, so I was happy I was able to do some positives for the team.”

All eyes on the Scotland game, then, with all four teams in the group going in to their final fixtures level on five points. It could yet come down to head-to-head records, points difference, tries scored and conceded, or even a toss of a coin in none of those criteria separated the contenders, with the table-toppers automatically qualifying for the World Cup and the runners-up given another chance in a repechage tournament.

Higgins, need it be said, hopes it’ll be a case of mission accomplished on Saturday. “We know the prize at the end of the road, we know what’s at stake, it’s what we’ve been focussing on for the last 18 months.” If they seal their World Cup slot, they may well toast their success with a glass or two of Chianti. You’d guess, though, that they’ll pass on the liver and fava beans.

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The Fiji Times » OPINION: The epic clash

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The shift from Wellington to Hamilton has proven to be fantastic in terms of crowd and getting a party atmosphere, but for me the yellow seats at the Cake Tin bring back epic memories of sevens battles in the windy capital of New Zealand.

Way back in 1999 when the International Rugby Board (IRB) decided to have a WRSS circuit, the rivalry between Fiji and NZ lived up to expectation and revived sweet memories of the early days from HK. Battles between Fiji and NZ have been world class.

The Fiji team understands 7s rugby so well and the NZ team has been an organised team. For me memories from the Cake Tin and the windy city of Wellington can never be erased.

Fans will remember that when the IRB 7s series started it was all Fiji versus NZ. Both teams had bagged five wins each. NZ had won in Dubai, Uruguay, Suva, Hong Kong and Paris while the Fijians won in South Africa, Argentina, Wellington, Japan and Brisbane.

However, as Fiji slipped in Paris, the All Blacks 7s took full advantage and won the Paris 7s to win the inaugural IRB 7s series circuit with 186 points. Fiji trailed the ABs by six points.

The Wellington 7s lives in the memory of many rugby fans as our boys won the inaugural 7s tournament hosted by the capital city in style after demolishing a star-studded NZ outfit coached by the greatest coach in the history of 7s Sir Gordon Tietjens, and it was always jubilant to bring the cup from the heart of NZ. Before the 2000 Wellington 7s Fiji and traditional rivals NZ had met on four occasions.

NZ won the Dubai and Punta del Este (Uruguay) 7s while the Fijians won the Stellenbosch (South Africa) and Mar del Plata 7s (Argentina) tournaments.

The combination of the late 7s guru Master Epeli Lagiloa (manager) and Peni Veidreyaki (coach) was stunning as they named a powerful side for the battle.

Fiji had the services of sevens wizard Waisale Serevi along with Marika Vunibaka, Vilimone Delasau, Fero Lasagavibau, Setareki Tawake, Jope Tuikabe, Taniela Qauqau, the late Temesia Kaumaia, Api Naevo, and Viliame Satala. Fans were excited when Robbie Deans allowed the release of Marika Vunibaka from the Crusaders Super Rugby squad.

I had an opportunity to have a conversation with Veidreyaki and two key players – Delasau and Satala. Peni had a lot to share as he guided Fiji to our first Wellington 7s cup. According to Peni, the WRSS was new to everyone, and he was elated to be selected as the head coach ahead of the late Tukiti Vesikula and Rupeni Ravonu.

He was glad that he had been given the green light by Paula Cavu to select his own squad. The late Epeli Lagiloa and Peni had attended Lelean Memorial. Master Lagiloa was his senior and was more qualifi ed as a coach and as a trainer.

Peni gave credit to Master Lagiloa for humbling himself and for doing his job as the team manager. Peni shared how he worked hard in NZ to get Marika Vunibaka’s release from the Crusaders, and how he had a conversation with his players, and then had to drop Jo Vunisa.

Vunibaka, according to Peni, trained with the boys during the captain’s run, but because he had 7s knowledge it did not take him long to get acclimatised to the team’s expectation. Peni described the atmosphere as fantastic, thrilling and exciting – a huge, passionate and patriotic crowd gathered for the two-day tournament in the capital. He said that he had been to Dubai and Africa, but the atmosphere in Wellington was different, and it challenged them to deliver something sensational.

The players were disciplined, skillful and had a good relationship with each other. Fiji started strongly in pool play demolishing PNG (54-0), USA (47-10) and Argentina (35-12). In the cup-quarters Fiji outclassed Tonga (47-7) before belting Samoa (47-12) in the cupsemis.

The stage was set for a fierce and exciting final and the hosts with a huge crowd backing looked hot favourites.

NZ laced with star players like Mils Muliaina, Justin Wilson, Caleb Ralph, Craig De Goldie, Eric Rush, Karl Te Nana, the late Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Amasio Valence Raoma, Jared Going and Tony Monaghan were favourites to win at home. Australian referee Stuart Dickinson was given the task of refereeing the final and he had a hell of a time as the match built to its climax.

Veteran commentator and my alltime favourite Keith Quinn, who was joined by former All Blacks star Dallas Seymour in the commentary booth, was all hyped up to cover the match. Perhaps the turning point came too early as the late Lomu tried to break Fiji’s defence and met Delasau. Lomu and Delasau were classified as the two big men of world rugby. Jonah’s jersey was ripped apart by Vunibaka and Delasau.

I specifically asked Delasau how he had done the impossible, and Delasau shared that it was not something that he had planned. Sharing his experiences from Ba, Delasau said winning the Wellington 7s in 2000 was one of his best memories from the playing field.

He shared that he had heard about Lomu and Cullen, and that they were world class players. According to Delasau, while warming up, he had a glance of Lomu, whom he considered his idol and Cullen and he was determined to beat both of them and win the prestigious title. He shared his experiences with the Nadi Cavaliers team, which had toured Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and lost to Lomu’s All Blacks 7s team in the quarterfinal.

He said it was hard for him to defend against Lomu, and while preparing for the Wellington 7s, he had done his homework. Delasau said once Lomu ran past his opponent, his footsteps could he heard on the turf. He shared that he had planned with Vunibaka to let Lomu run inside, and go for the chase. The ripping of Lomu’s jersey was not planned, but it showed the enormous strength that Lomu had, and that it was always going to be a mammoth task bringing him down.

Delasau said when he pulled Lomu’s jersey, he fell down, and because Lomu did not come down, his jersey got ripped apart.

The Fijians hammered NZ with bonecrunching tackles which resulted in NZ dropping balls and giving away possession. Fero went down as Stuart Dickinson called Serevi and Rush and asked the sides to calm down, play the football and keep their discipline.

Serevi’s pass found Vunibaka who made his intentions known early as he left the NZ defenders in their wake and dashed towards the corner. Robbie Deans watched as Fiji raced to a (5-0) lead. Muliaina broke from his own half, and the Fijians were caught napping by the NZ counter attack.

Serevi had to defend our try-line against Muliaina, Ralph and Monaghan and a late help from Seta was not enough as Mils dotted in the corner. Monaghan added the extras, bringing a round of applause from the huge crowd as the hosts took the lead (7-5). The half time hooter went.

Seta received a pass from Vunibaka who offl oaded to Delasau and on the stroke of half-time Delasau broke thousands of Kiwi hearts as he sizzled between two NZ defenders to give Fiji the 12-7 lead at half-time. This is what Keith had to say: “Delasau skins through and he is away.

So Fiji will take the lead at half-time. Delasau – what a tremendous player this young man is. He goes in for his 64th try in the series.”

Tietjens tried to spark his boys who were stung by Fiji in the tremendous Wellington atmosphere. Ten more minutes of two wonderful days of 7s rugby and the crowd was at the edge of their seat. Delasau received a pass and dazzled past Karl Te Nana to set up Vunibaka for Fiji’s third try. Scores (17-7) in favour of Fiji! Fiji played with a lot of confidence as the hosts stumbled.

Even Tietjens looked worried from the sideline. Fiji’s defence held on to the NZ onslaught and Caleb Ralph was yellow carded for shoulder charge. With six minutes to play, Cullen replaced Jonah. However, the tackle made on Cullen by The Stretcher (Viliame Satala) ended his time at the Cake Tin and he was replaced by Raoma.

Satala had so much to share about his tackle on Cullen. He said he had broken his shoulder the previous year and that is why he had a bandage tied around his shoulder.

He shared that our boys had expected a tough outing against the hosts, but they were confident of winning. When asked about the tackle, Bill said: “He wasn’t expecting it.” Bill added that if he had not tackled Cullen, the hosts would have scored a try.

The flying feet of Delasau then added misery to the hosts as his try extended Fiji’s lead (24-7). This is what Keith had to say: “Serevi now Delasau they got two covering him. He is looking for space. And he is away to score, chased all the way by Craig de Goldi”.

NZ had given Fiji too much space and they paid the price. NZ tried desperately to please their fans and their country and the hosts pulled one back (try to Karl Te Nana) with seconds remaining, but it was not enough and Fiji created history by winning the inaugural Wellington 7s (24-14). Some consolation, however, for the hosts as Tony Monaghan was given the tournament’s Best Player Award. Keith Quinn summed up Fiji’s win with these words: “And it is over! Great performance and deserving winners, Fiji!” Serevi was hoisted on Tomasi Cama Senior’s shoulders as fans celebrated wildly. Back home Fijians were in frenzy as the Kiwis walked away from the stadium bitterly.

The 2000 Wellington 7s final remains one of my best 7s finals. The way we beat the hosts became the talking point for many over the tanoaIsa, the glorious days that left us mesmerised! For Delasau, Bill and Peni, the win was very sweet, for they conquered the enemy, laced with rugby names, in their own background.

I conclude by paying tribute to Jonah Lomu, Temesia Kaumaia and Epeli Lagiloa! May their souls rest high! A beautiful memory from the Cake Tin.

 RAJNESH LINGAM is a contributor to this newspaper. The views are his and not of this newspaper.

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