iTatau from the National U20 Rugby Trophy Competition in Uruguay.
August 18, 2017 Boron House, Suva.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Fiji Rugby Union, Mr. John O’Connor;
The Fiji National Under20 Coach, Mr. Koli Sewabu;
The Team Manager, Mr. Willie Baleinabuli;
Players and Officials;
Reverend James Bhagwan;
Members of the Media;and
Ladies and gentlemen.
Ni sa bula vinaka, good morning and warm greetings to you all.
I am honoured to receive, on behalf of Government and the people of Fiji, our national Under20 Rugby Team that will represent Fiji at the World Rugby Under20 Trophy Competition in Uruguay.
I welcome your visit to present your iTatau in the same manner and spirit that I have welcomed all the National Teams that have come before you.
I am particularly impressed that even though you are young in age, you have demonstrated great wisdom to seek the Nation’s blessings before you depart our shores.
Moreover, the spiritual message brought to us this morning by Reverend James Bhagwan is very timely and appropriate.
I congratulate all of you for your selection into the National Under20 Team. I acknowledge in particular the great effort and sacrifices you have all made so that you can be part of the team.
I also acknowledge the hard work that your coaches and officials have put towards your preparation for this year’s competition.
I am aware that the World Rugby Under20 Trophy Competition is the qualifying event towards the annual Junior Rugby World Championship.
Fiji last participated in the Junior World Championship in 2014 where we finished at 12th place. Our best placing was in 2011 when we reached 6th place.
I have no doubt that all of you here today want to play in the Junior World Championship. For this to happen, you will need to play exceptionally well at the Trophy Competition.
All of you here know only too well how important rugby is to our Nation. This is one sport that can bring all our people together, especially so that we are the Olympic champions in Seven-a-Side Rugby.
Last week, we celebrated our first anniversary since winning the Olympic Gold Medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Rugby also captured the Nation’s attention when our senior National Team, two months ago beat two Tier One Rugby Nations – Italy and Scotland - and outperformed our neighbours Tonga and Samoa to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Just last weekend, the Nation saw a full capacity crowd gathered at the ANZ National Stadium to witness the finals of the Fiji Secondary Schools Deans Rugby Competition. What a championship that was!
I was very impressed with the quality of play from all the teams especially from the quarterfinal stages. Of course, congratulations are in order to the Ratu Kadavulevu School for scooping all the grades. I also congratulate the other teams for putting up a formidable performance.
This week is yet another rugby week with the Milo Kaji competition.
I have every confidence that many of these young players will follow in your footsteps to represent our country in international competitions.
I am also confident that many of you will also move on to play for our senior national team.
For now, you can all be rest assured that the Nation will be following your performance at the World Rugby Under20 Trophy Competition with keen interest.
But do not be pressured, because you are not alone in your efforts to stamp your mark at the international level.
As a Nation, Fiji is also playing a leading role at the global level where we are the president of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, a role that we will hand over next month after a very successful one-year term in office.
Fiji took centre stage at the United Nations in June when it co-chaired the Oceans Conference and called on world leaders to help protect the world’s oceans.
We are also leading the charge on climate change as we prepare to take on the presidency of COP23 this November.
In this role, we intend to convince world leaders to help save our planet by reducing carbon emission, preventing global warming and stopping low-lying islands in the Pacific and around the world from going under-water due to the rise in sea level.
In all of our international engagements and commitments, we are encouraging the world leaders not to drop the ball or perform blind passes. To do so would result in catastrophe for our planet and for humanity at large. We will all eventually lose out.
We are calling on the world to work to our strengths and combine our efforts and resources. We can only win if we remain united.
This morning, I encourage all of you to work as a team. Play your part in your respective individual positions, but combine your efforts.
I have every confidence that you will come out winners in the end.
So, I accept your iTatau today, on behalf of Government and all Fijians, with our collective encouragement and best wishes for a successful championship in Uruguay.
Be good ambassadors for our country both on and off the field, and fly our flag with pride.
May Almighty God Bless you all, your respective families, and our beloved Nation - Fiji.