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iTatau for the Men's and Women's 7's Teams to the Rugby World Cup.

June 28, 2018       Boron House, Suva.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Fiji Rugby Union, Mr. John O’Connor

The Reverend Isireli Kacimaiwai 

The Coaches of the Men’s 7s Team, Mr. Gareth Baber and Fijiana 7s Team, Mr. Iliesa Tanivula

The Managers of the Men’s and Women’s Teams

The Team Captains and Players 

Ladies and Gentlemen.

A very good morning and warm greetings to you all.

Vinaka vakalevu Reverend Kacimaiwai for the spiritual words of wisdom that you have shared with us this morning. I encourage each one of you young men and women present here this morning to continue to put God first in whatever you do whether it is on the field of play or off the field. Many of you have demonstrated this very well in the past tournaments.

Congratulations to all the players for your selection into the Men’s and Women’s 7s teams that will represent Fiji to the Rugby World Cup Sevens that will be held in the United States of America from July 20th – 22nd. The Rugby World Cup Sevens is the premier of rugby championships that takes place every four years and every participating team will be vying for the ultimate prize, and that is to win the World Cup. You take with you, not only my blessings and that of your respective families, but also that of Government, each and every Fijian living here and abroad. 

To the coaches Mr. Gareth Baber and Mr. Iliesa Tanivula, congratulations for your perseverance and weathering the challenges in bringing your teams through to this juncture in Fijian rugby. Your commitment and patience are paying dividends already as we witnessed with the recent World Series events. 

Our men’s team is in the top two in the world! It won the most number of Gold medals in the 2017-2018 series. These are no easy feat. Only real champions are able to pick up the pieces and maintain a consistent performance to be in the top two! Congratulations on your sterling efforts. And I have seen our women’s team make tremendous progress. You almost beat the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series champions – Australia in the quarter-finals in Paris. Only a last-minute try saved the champions. That is progress for our Team – to be able to test and stretch the champions to the last minute. I commend both the men’s and women’s team for your scintillating efforts. And, like all Fijians, we hope that you will maximize on all the lessons from your experiences to put on an even greater performance at the World Cup.

To the team captains – Mr. Seremaia Tuwai and Ms. Ana Roqica, your respective players will look to you for your leadership. Stay focused and remember, nothing is impossible if you believe.  All of the team members have trained your hardest to be where you are today, and I acknowledge you all for your commitment and dedication. It is also appropriate that we acknowledge the team officials, your family members, the Fiji Rugby Union, and your sponsors including Government through the Fiji Sports Commission, who have invested in you and assisted you in your journey. I have every confidence that these investments will pay-off both in the field of play, and in our collective efforts to build a fit and healthy nation.

As we speak, our country loses over $406 Million annually to Non-Communicable Diseases. All this money is used on treating NCDs like cardiovascular or heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, these diseases are the leading causes of death in Fiji. We have one of the highest rates of NCD-related deaths in the Pacific region. This is certainly not the champion status we want our nation to have.  This is why we must all join hands and promote a fit and healthy nation through sports, daily exercise, and eating well-balanced meals. We must also do away with all forms of drugs. Even smoking and excessive consumption of kava and alcohol are unhealthy. As Fiji’s lead advocate and champion in the campaign to reduce NCDs, I invite you to join me in this campaign.  Imagine if we have a fit and healthy nation - a good portion of the $406 million could be channeled to the development of young people like you through education, sports, and many other nation building initiatives. Imagine if we invest more into sporting facilities and elite training programmes!  We surely can retain our champion status not only in the Olympics, but also in the World Cup and in the annual series. Other Fijians can also become world champions in the sport of their choosing.  Please keep this invitation from me at the back of your minds. 

For now, I encourage you all to focus on the task on hand. Put all the lessons learnt from your past games, and perform to the best of your ability.

I extend to you my personal best wishes, and that of the Nation, as you depart our shores. And as travelling ambassadors for our country, may you fly our Fijian flag with pride. 

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you and May Almighty God continue to bless our beloved Nation - Fiji.