French winger Virimi Vakatawa is set to make his first Top 14 start since 2013 when Racing 92 take on Brive at the weekend, French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique reports.
Vakatawa signed on the dotted line for Racing in June to bolster his experience at the 15-player version of the game. He has long been a star of the sevens scene – but his call-up for the 15-man national squad in then-new coach Guy Noves’ first squad announcement for the 2016 Six Nations came as something of a surprise to many pundits, as he had been out of the longer version of the game since joining the French sevens set-up in 2013.
Two months after his try-scoring debut for Guy Noves’ side against Italy in the 2016 Six Nations, the 25-year-old signed a two-year FFR deal that meant he would exclusively play for the French 7s and 15s national teams.
The contract has been far from ideal for both player and country, as his lack of recent experience quickly revealed. After racing in five tries in his first eight outings, he has touched down just once more in seven matches – and he failed to cross the whitewash once during France’s dismal June tour of South Africa.
It was announced shortly after the first Test that he would be released from his FFR contract so he could again play for Racing 92.
A clause in his Racing contract allows him to play in the 2018 World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.
The Fijian-born flyer, who now has French citizenship, scored nine tries in 44 starts in a previous stint at the club between 2010 and 2013, but was released to join the French sevens side as soon as his qualification period was up.
Even that move was controversial. In December last year, Vakatawa was ordered to pay €125,000 in damages to Toulon for reneging on a pre-contract he had signed in 2013, in which he pledged to join the club for three years from the end of his term with Racing.