Fiji’s hooker Sam Matavesi is still expected to face England this weekend despite having dashed back to Cornwall to be with his family following the death of his father, Sireli.
Matavesi, who plays his club rugby for Northampton, is a key member of his country’s pack and his absence would be an untimely setback ahead of Fiji’s first Rugby World Cup quarter-final for 16 years.
It is the second family bereavement to affect the Fijian squad at this World Cup, following the death last month, after a long illness, of Josua Tuisova’s seven-year-old son, Tito. Tuisova missed his son’s funeral in order to stay with the squad and the Fijian management say they have not ruled Matavesi out of Sunday’s fixture.
“We would like to send our condolences to Sam and the family,” said Seremaia Bai, Fiji’s kicking coach, confirming the 31-year-old had returned to England. “He’s one of our senior leaders and we’ll see in a couple of days if he is going to join us.
“For us in Fiji family is everything. If one suffers, we all emotionally suffer. We know every player’s family comes from humble beginnings so we make sure they have the care and love they need. It’s a very tough moment … we need to stay together for one another.
Sireli Matavesi, whose three sons have all played rugby professionally, settled in Cornwall after touring as a Fiji Barbarian in 1987. Originally a coconut farmer he found work in the local tin mines and subsequently met and married Karen, his late wife. A well-known figure in the Cornish rugby community, he used a wheelchair in his later years after being left paralysed from the waist down following a life-saving operation.
Bai, meanwhile, said excitement was building within the squad and back home ahead of Sunday’s game.
“If we win I think there will be a one week holiday in Fiji,” said the former Fiji and Leicester three-quarter.
“It will be crazy. Rugby means a lot to us in Fiji. It gives us life, keeps everyone happy and brings the country together in unity. Whatever the result we will hopefully make the country proud,” he said.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN/PACNEWS