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The Nemani Nadolo verdict on Drua transformation of Fijian rugby

By Liam Heagney
Fijian Drua celebrate a try in this season's Super Rugby Pacific (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Legendary Fiji winger Nemani Nadolo has hailed the transformation of rugby in the Pacific Islands nation following the formation of the Fijian Drua. The franchise was originally launched in 2017 to take part in the Australian National Championship, but that participation was ended by the pandemic.

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However, an invitation to join Super Rugby Pacific in 2022 has since enabled the team to flourish and they are now in seventh place in the 12-team tournament heading into Friday’s round nine clash versus the top-of-the-table Hurricanes in Suva.

The 36-year-old Nadolo, who won 30-plus Test caps with Fiji and played at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, retired from playing last year following a stellar career that saw him represent multiple clubs in five countries – Australia, France, England, Japan, and New Zealand.

Video Spacer

Patrick Pellegrini on going from the Championship to playing for Tonga

Coventry’s Patrick Pellegrini explains what it was like to suddenly jump into a test rugby environment, with some big names around him.

Video Spacer

Patrick Pellegrini on going from the Championship to playing for Tonga

Coventry’s Patrick Pellegrini explains what it was like to suddenly jump into a test rugby environment, with some big names around him.

This globe-trotting meant he never got the opportunity to play a season on the island, but the Sigatoka-born, Australian-raised star is chuffed that the successful establishment of Fijian Drua has created the opportunity for local players to play professionally at home rather than join overseas clubs.

“If the team was there then my route would be a lot different, but it’s great to see there is a professional team on the Island,” enthused Nadolo when interviewed by RugbyPass at the recent Hong Kong 10s.

Fixture
Super Rugby Pacific
Fijian Drua
15 - 38
Full-time
Hurricanes
All Stats and Data

“I go and do a bit of media work over there with Fiji Drua and the fact they can earn a decent living and stay on the island, play in front of their families, why would you leave?

“Fiji is a wonderful place, wonderful country. It’s relaxing, it’s not as hustle and bustle as in some other cities or countries. It’s great for the game but it is also great for Fiji in terms of the development.

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“They don’t need to go and play in a National One league in France or a Pro D2 club and their career sort of gets wasted away. They get to play on the island and now they are starting to retain players.

“Honestly, it’s great, it’s something that was probably crying out for a long time. It would have been good to have it five or 10 years earlier, it would have been great but it is what it is.

“I speak to some of the Fijian boys there and they are just so happy. They are getting offers from Europe but they are not taking it because why would they?

“They get to live at home, they get a good six-figure contract, and they are playing in front of their family. It’s the same for anyone in England or Ireland, why would you leave? You get to play for your country but also your club.”

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