iTatau by the Fiji National 15s Rugby Team to Melbourne, Australia.
June 2, 2017 State House, Suva.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Fiji Rugby Union – Mr. John O’Connor
The Head Coach – Mr. John McKee
The Team Manager – Mr. Willie Baleinabuli
Players and Officials
Ladies and gentlemen
Ni sa bula vinaka, good afternoon and warm greetings to you all.
I am always honoured to receive, on behalf of Government and the people of Fiji, all our national sporting teams as they present their iTatau before travelling across the vast oceans and airspace with the hope of putting our beloved Nation’s name permanently onto the sporting world map.
I welcome your visit to the State House in the same spirit that I have welcomed all the National Teams that have come before you, and in the same manner that both our predecessors have done.
But, I also make special mention of you today – our current national rugby representatives – because, as you are all fully aware, our Nation virtually grinds to a standstill whenever a Fiji national rugby team runs onto the paddock, irrespective of the code.
This was certainly the case when our National Seven-a-Side team won our first Summer Olympics Gold Medal in Rio last year.
It was the case when the 15s Team played in the past 15s Rugby World Cups when many of us vividly remember Fiji reaching the Quarterfinals in 1987, followed by an equally scintillating performance in 2007.
This is always the case when we play - and especially when we win - in the Hong Kong Sevens, the Sevens World Cup, and the Pacific Tri-Nations in the 15s code.
Rugby has become synonymous with Fiji. It has grown to become our main sport. Initially the growth was largely subconscious because as a warrior Nation, our ancestors have always welcomed battles. That psyche has now transformed to our love of competition. And, we definitely love winning!
As a former player, I have been following our rugby teams’ performances with great interest.
I am aware that Fiji has beaten Tier One Nations like Italy, Scotland, Argentina, Wales, and Australia too - the latter on two occasions: first in 1952 with a 17-15 score-line, and then a 18-16 score-line in 1954. Both games were at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
I mention these achievements – not because I was already kicking a rugby ball during those times – but because I believe that we can still win over Tier One Nations. They may have all the resources at their disposal, but we have one thing that is within our control – an indomitable fighting spirit. And, we don’t necessarily need money to develop this spirit.
So, I accept your iTatau today, on behalf of our beloved Nation, with our collective encouragement and best wishes for a successful tour to Australia.
The Nation is reassured from the preparations that you have undertaken. You have done the hard yards in training. It is now time to put on your battle gear and perform to the best of your ability.
Your performance will be remembered in the annals of history. Just as the past teams’ performances have been documented, scrutinized and dissected publicly, all of you from the players, coaches and the officials, will also remembered for your winning performance.
I wish to advise that you are not alone in your efforts to stamp our mark in the international arena.
Fiji is also breaking new ground in the leadership roles that we now take on in the global community. You have heard that we have chaired some of the largest gatherings of countries around the world, including the Group of 77 Plus China, and the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly. We are still presiding over the UNGA.
We are also co-chairing the United Nations Oceans Conference that will take place in New York next week, led by our Prime Minister and his counter-part from Sweden.
The Honourable Prime Minister will this year also chair the 23rd Session of the UN Convention on Climate Change or COP23.
The philosophies, the strategies, including the language that we convey in these important international gatherings accentuate our love of rugby.
We are calling on the world not to drop the ball, or not to perform blind passes on major issues like climate change, which is already affecting humanity’s very existence.
We are calling on the world to work as a team - and a winning team at that. We are telling the world that we could win, but only if we combine our efforts and work to our strengths.
Today, I say to you that you can certainly win over Australia next week, and over Italy, Scotland, Tonga and Samoa in the next few weeks, as we build-up towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
As Mr. McKee aptly summed up: “you will have to be at your absolute best to deliver in the game against the Wallabies…”
On this occasion, I wish to congratulate you all for your selection into our National Team. I also commend the work of your coaches and officials in getting you ready.
I encourage you to be great ambassadors for Fiji both on and off the field, and fly our flag with pride.
On behalf of the Nation, I convey to you our collective best wishes.
May God Bless you all, your respective families, and our beloved Nation - Fiji.