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iTatau for the Vodafone Fiji U18 and U16 Teams to New Zealand and Australia.

September 24, 2018       Boron House, Suva.

The Team Managers of our Fiji Rugby Union Under-18 and 16 School Teams;  Mr Alivereti Tawake;

Mr Jiutasa Mocesui;

The Team Coaches: Mr Noca Baleitoka;

Mr Masi Saqanacere;

The Reverend Isireli Kacimaiwai;

The Captains and members of both teams, 

A warm bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It is always a great honour and privilege for me to represent our beloved Nation in receiving your iTatau and in conveying to you our collective good wishes for a successful tour this time, to New Zealand to enable you to compete in the forthcoming 2018 Under 18 Tri-Nations School Boys tournament and the 2018 Junior Rugby Championship.

And I wish to start by acknowledging the presence of Turaga Talatala Kacimaiwai - vinaka vakalevu Turaga Talatala for your words of encouragement, but more importantly the very short, and inspirational spiritual presentation that should guide this young team of rugby players to success. 

I also acknowledge the Fiji Rugby Union and the Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby Union for paving the pathway for these aspiring young men who have decided to develop their interest in order to improve their individual and collective performance as they pursue a career in rugby. 

Vinaka vakalevu na sasaga kei na gugumatua ra cauravou.

Congratulations to all the members of the Vodafone Under-18 and Under-16 teams for your sacrifice and hardwork during these past weeks which has culminated in your success in being selected into our national teams. Your coaches and the management of the FRU and the Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby Union have noticed your passion and determination in playing good rugby at your level which has tangibly manifested in your ultimate selection. Well done. 

While the Under-16 team will be participating in four matches in the 2018 Junior Rugby Championship scheduled from 28th September to 6th October 2018, the Under-18 team will play in the 2018 Tri Nations School Boys tournament playing three matches from 27th September to 5th October.  The Under-18 players will be competing in test matches against the New Zealand Barbarians and the New Zealand Maori with their first game scheduled against the Wellington Samoans later on in the tournament.

I am informed that the objectives of this tour are four-fold. The tour is essentially a ground breaking initiative and undertaking to develop the sport of rugby at the Secondary school level.  It is also an ideal opportunity to expose our young and talented players in playing international teams at a higher level and against the backdrop of a more intense, robust and competitive atmosphere. In fact, such an exposure is invaluable and should assist our coaches, but more importantly, you the young players of today to know what to expect when you play at the international level. I can assure you that it is going to be undoubtedly a Sharp learning curve in terms of gaining more experience, so make the most of this ideal opportunity.

All your scheduled matches are important qualifying games to enable you to progress further in playing games against other Australian and New Zealand school teams whose players are young, fit and determined like you.  You will have to win your test matches, therefore remain focused and follow your game plans as articulated by your coaches. There may even be opportunities to secure scholarships or contracts. While the prospects of being offered rugby scholarships or securing a contract are realities, your primary goal now is to represent the nation to the best of your abilities and to put into practice the skills and knowledge that your coaches have shared with you.  This is your chance to prove your worth. Be the best you can be. 

At this juncture, I would like to remind you again of my advise to all our sportsmen and women during past itatau presentations.  By all means enjoy the opportunity to represent your country as you compete in what I understand is going to be a very tough competition.  Enjoy the sights and make new friends, but always remember that you are representing your families, your schools, your villages and our beloved country, Fiji.  Have fun, but be good ambassador on and off the field.

I urge you to maintain the spirit of true sportsmanship on and off the field, maximise on your strengths and play as a team, trust your game instincts, respect your opponents, acknowledge and always remember the advice and rugby tips given to you by your team officials, and always remain cognizant of the fact that you represent a rugby-mad and loving nation whose best wishes and prayers are always with you. Regardless of whether you become a member of the future Flying Fijians, secure overseas scholarships, or change your sport of choice, I encourage you to seek Divine guidance and strength always in your chosen path. 

I also encourage you to join me in the campaign to build a fit and healthy nation and to reduce Non-Communicable Diseases related ailments in society. I want you to join me in my capacity as our nation’s Chief Advocate and Champion in our national effort to fight against the prevalence of NCDs which unfortunately, has adversely impeded social and economic progress with its negative impact on productivity.  You are young and fit so please continue to remain active and help promote health and wellness within your respective families, communities and our Nation.

Enjoy your trip to New Zealand. Look after one another and stay safe.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you and may Almighty God continue to bless you and our beloved nation, Fiji.