Interview of Samisoni VIRIVIRI

On his way to Europe to play the last two rounds of the Rugby 7 series in London and Paris, we had the chance to interview Samisoni Viriviri. Elected best Rugby 7 player of the world in 2014 by IRB (International Rugby Board), Olympics champion in 2016 with the Fijian team, he has played for French clubs for two years before to go back to Fiji. He explains us his career and his vision of Rugby 7.

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© French Embassy in Vanuatu

First of all, can you tell us how did you start to play Rugby? Did you start by playing directly Rugby 7 ?

I started rugby when I was in a primary school, when we played sport at school. That is how I first started. Then I started playing in the provincial rugby teams for Suva or Nadroga. When I was in my village, I used to play Rugby 7 in local tournaments.

Today Fijian Rugby 7 is one of the best in the world, but it is not the same in Rugby 15. Could you give us the reason for this difference?

In Rugby 7 we got a lot of space, we can run. But in Rugby 15, we only have small space and there are a lot of people, so we can’t develop our style which is based on speed and percussion to create free space. Indeed if you want to play Rugby 7, you have to be very quick, fit and strong.

And in Fiji, every month you have two or three tournaments in the country. So everybody is playing Rugby 7. It is played every month, every week. So we get more experience by playing and playing. That is why when we go to the Series, Rugby is not new only the crowd is new. But the game is the same.

What do you think about the evolution of some Rugby 7 players who are more focused on the speed than on the technique skills?

I think that you need both. If you only focus on the technique, you need to be fit as well, because in Rugby 7 you do a lot of running. But if you just keep on running, and you don’t have the technique, it is useless.

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Viriviri’s training at Independance Park in Port-Vila
© French Embassy in Vanuatu

In 2014, you have been elected best Rugby 7 player in the world by the IRB, what did it change? After that did you feel that you had more responsibility?

Sometimes I got more pressure when I hold the ball and when I run for the space. But I don’t feel a big change; I just keep on playing with my skills and with my feelings.

In 2016, you became Olympic champion in Rio with the Fijian team. Can you tell us more about this experience?

In the Olympic Games, the experience was more different than the Rugby leagues organized by IRB. Olympics it is a different level, with the Olympic village, the fact that it is broadcasted all around the world, a lot of athletes some of the most famous that you could just watch on TV, you finally meet them there.

Our toughest game was against Argentina, because we nearly lost. And I dislocated my ankle, but luckily I came back for the next game.

Before the Olympics, you were playing in France but then you didn’t come back there, could you tell us why?

Well, my wife got birth for the first time, and so I had too much responsibility. I couldn’t just leave them alone, and going to France. I was little bit undecided, because I was thinking that if I go to France, I will be alone and who is going to stay with my family then?

With two years of experience in the French Rugby league, how do you find rugby there?

French Rugby is very physical; you should be strong, because sometimes you can get hit hard. In France, players are very strong and they play with their mind. In Fiji, you just take the ball and pierce the space.

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Viriviri’s training at Independance Park in Port-Vila
© French Embassy in Vanuatu

You have been playing Rugby 7 and Rugby 15, but what do you prefer to play?

I prefer to play Rugby 7. But the problem is that with Rugby 7 you can’t earn as much as with Rugby 15. And I have a family, so I need to go play overseas and have a good contract to support them.

But Rugby 7 is now an Olympic discipline, so it will probably become more attractive and more developed among the world. I heard that in Spain and even in America, people start to play and to organize local tournaments. So it starts to spread all around the world, and that is a very good news.

For you now, what are your objectives in your career? Maybe one more Olympic Games medal?

Well I would love to, but you know in Fiji, there are a lot of talented players coming, and I am getting older. So I don’t think I can make it. I am more thinking of having another contract overseas and then get retired to come back to live in Fiji.

Finally, what are you the most proud of in your career?

Well, I think the Olympic Game medal. It was a great moment. Then I came back home, and everything was heaven, because everybody was happy and celebrating us. And it was the first Olympic gold medal for Fiji and for the whole Pacific islands. We made History.

A big thank to Samisoni Viriviri for taking his time to answer our questions. Good luck with the games in Europe!

Published on 27/05/2018

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