Fijians loving the local way of life

Pacific Islanders repay support by running a coaching clinic for local kids in remote part of Japan.

ABASHIRI, 17 Sep - Fiji have turned the small city of Abashiri into their second home - and the locals are loving it.

At the end of their training session on Monday, the South Pacific Islanders lined up in front of the crowd that had watched from the grassy verge and called out together, arigato gozaimasu ("thank you"), before bowing in unison.

It was a fitting show of thanks from the Fijians, touched by the turnout of locals, who had accepted their invitation to watch them work out ahead of their Pool D opening game against Australia in Sapporo on Saturday.

 

The airport is decked out with Rugby World Cup bunting and giant "Welcome Fiji" banners, while giant canvasses signed by local schoolchildren bear the Fijian greeting "Bula!" at the training ground, where locals wore T-shirts with the same message.

"We've been here for quite a while and the local people have supported us," said back-row Viliame Mata. "It's a massive boost for us to have them here and we enjoy their company."  

At the end of the session, the Fijian players and staff ran a 45-minute coaching clinic for enthusiastic youngsters. Above is wing Waisea Nayacalevu taking some locals through their rugby paces.

Fiji's New Zealand coach John McKee said it was important for the squad to interact with the community. "We don't want to just be in our little bubble and our players really enjoy this sort of thing with the kids and the locals," he said.

For lock Leone Nakarawa it is a chance to show a little of the Fijian way of life. "Everywhere we go we take our culture with us and interacting with people is one of the biggest values of Fijians because we love different kinds of people," he said.

RNS sg/mj/ajr