In Pics: Pacific Islanders Training At Old Belvedere
23 November 2006, 5:30 am
Click here for photos of coach Pat Lam and his Pacific Islanders during Wednesday's training session at Old Belvedere RFC.
Pictured above: Pacific Islanders coach Pat Lam surveys the scene at Old Belvedere RFC on Anglesea Road, where his charges took part in a skills and conditioning session on Wednesday.
Lam, the former Samoan number 8 and captain, led his country to a shock 40-25 victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road almost ten years ago to the day. The Islanders, who announce their team for Sunday's Guinness Autumn Test match today, will have to do without the services of back rower Viliami Vaki.
The Tongan flanker, who plays for Perpignan in France, was suspended for three weeks (until December 10) by a Six Nations judiciary panel yesterday. He was found guilty of dangerous tackling during the Islanders' 34-22 loss to Scotland. Vaki's first half tackle on Chris Cusiter, which saw him drive him out over the touchline, damaged the Scottish scrum half's shoulder and he be out for up to four months.
Islanders team captain Simon Raiwalui plays his club rugby for Saracens in England's Guinness Premiership. The Fijian lock, 32, has played at Lansdowne Road before - he was a member of the Fiji team that lost 64-17 to Ireland in November 2002. He skippered the Islanders in both of their recent tour match defeats to Wales and Scotland.
A general view of the Islanders' training session at Old Belvedere. The tourists will perform a traditional war dance, known as a 'siva tau', before Sunday's encounter at Lansdowne Road. Leading them will be Samoan ex-Blues player Freddie Tuilagi, 35, and the 48-year-old Dominic Fomoti, who will both be showing off their stunning tribal tattoos - no matter what the weather!
Dreadlocked Tongan flanker Hale T-Pole, whose nickname is simply 'Don', gets in some tacklebag practice in Dublin. The 27-year-old, who plays for Southland in New Zealand, cites his Fijian and Islanders team-mate Norman Ligairi, the statuesque full-back, as one of the biggest influences on his career.
Seilala Mapusua, London Irish's Samoan centre who sat out last weekend's defeat to Scotland, was one of few members from the current Islanders squad to have played in the 2004 Test matches - he was capped twice against South Africa and Australia.
'Lala', who played for Otago and the Highlanders in New Zealand before linking up with Irish last month, was a member of the New Zealand Under-19 team that won the World Junior Championship in Wales in 1999.
Leicester Tigers centre Seru Rabeni, who is a former teacher, greatly impressed his English employers when he scored eight tries in his first ten matches for the Welford Road club in the 2004/05 season. The Fijian lists Sevens legend Waisale Serevi and England's World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson as his rugby heroes.
A former New Zealand Under-19 and Under-21 international, out-half Tusi Pisi was born in Apia, Samoa but has lived most of his life in Auckland. For the 2007 season he has been added to the Crusaders squad so his delighted father, George senior, will have two sons - Tusi and George junior (Auckland Blues) - playing Super 14 rugby next year.
Ma'ama Molitika, who can play both in the second and back row, lines out regularly for Japanese club IBM. The Tongan bruiser, 32, was on the books of the Cardiff Blues up until last season so he will be well-known to Ireland's players. He was used a replacement against Wales and Scotland in recent weeks.
Experienced Fijian scrum half Mosese Rauluni saw the funny side of things at Old Belvedere RFC on Wednesday. The 31-year-old, who captained his country during last November's internationals, made his Test debut for Fiji ten years ago against the New Zealand Maori.
Lam is hopeful that his side's time together over the past three weeks will help them put in their best display of the tour against the Irish. He said: "Rugby at this level is about combinations. It's about knowing each other. We have guys from different countries, different Hemispheres and different systems so it's been a huge challenge getting them together as one team."
**All photos by Cathal Noonan of Inpho Photography**