The Olympic Gold Medal won by Fiji’s sevens in Rio de Janeiro validated the popularity of rugby in much of the Pacific, and the quality of its players. An estimated 800 Pacific Islanders play professionally in Europe, but both they and their clubs can have problems with culture shock…we have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Samoan born Manu Tuilagi’s family moved to England when his older brothers started to play there; he was just 13 at the time and took little notice that he’d arrived in the country on a tourist visa. Six years later, he joined his brothers on the Leicester Tigers, to learn that his visa had long expired and that he faced deportation. The star center told Britain’s Press Association, “The situation with the visa caught us all out. Growing up in Samoa we would never have had to deal with paperwork like that, so these are the kinds of problems and issues players can face.”
In Tuilagi’s case, his club and the Rugby Football Union intervened; now, he and other Pacific Islander stars have established an organization called Pacific Rugby Players Welfare to help others. Another Samoan, Dan Leo, was elected chairman at the group’s inaugural meeting on Sunday and will visit each member of the Aviva Premiership to explain the organization’s mission.
Tuilagi told the PA that cultural issues can be huge. “Here you’ve got to work and earn your living,”
He said. “Back in Samoa, you can live off the land, you don’t pay tax, you own your own house and land.”
Other differences can be more subtle.
“We can be naturally quiet people. That can sometimes be interpreted that we’re not interested or we don’t care. That’s definitely not the case,” Tuilagi said. “Often that quietness is our way of showing respect.”