Wednesday, June 25, 2008


WHEN Flying Fijians skipper Mosese Rauluni runs onto Ballymore Oval for the Pacific Nations Cup match against Australia A on Sunday, it will be a defining moment in his rugby career which is four years into a new decade.
For the Qarani patriot from Gau island whose family resides in Brisbane, Queensland but plays his trade for Saracens Rugby Club in England, the priorities in life will have to change.
His reaction after spending time off rugby to be with his family has revealed he has found new love in daughter Isabella and the passion for the oval ball will be second.
So the PNC match against Australia A will be his last for the year in the Fiji number nine jersey.
To go by his words (not the first time) it could turn out to be his last competitive international match for the country.
He will not feature against Tonga in the last PNC game next week but he is determined to create history by becoming the first skipper to lead Fiji to victory over Australia A.
It will be special for Rauluni, who was brought up and learned his footy in Brisbane. The city is home for the Raulunis and he has a special bond with Ballymore Oval.
Then there is an inevitable tide of change when he turns 33 on Friday.
A win against the hosts would be a perfect belated gift for the 42-Test veteran. Last year he led Fiji to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup -the first time since the inaugural event in 1987.
Rauluni played for the Australia under-19 in 1993 and 1994.
He debuted for Fiji against New Zealand Maori in 1996 and has been a regular since then.
At the 1999 RWC he was reserve to elder brother Jacob the number one Fiji halfback.
In the 2003 RWC, he played in all four of Fiji's pool matches.
Rauluni went on both Pacific Islanders tours in 2004 and 2006.
After an outstanding performance at last year's RWC, Rauluni was named the Player of the Year' at the 2007 Fiji Rugby Awards.
With nothing decided yet for 2009, Rauluni said he wasn't getting any younger and had to give it another 100 per cent in his last match of the year in the White jumper with the coconut emblem.
"We need to start building depth in the halfback position," Rauluni said. "It is time to give the other guys a break, especially those who will carry the flag in the future."
He said while there was no concrete decision on which direction his career would follow, it was imperative he wasn't selfish.
"It's important I try to get a bit of rest because I have played a lot of rugby not getting any younger," he said.
Fiji coach Ilivasi Tabua said Rauluni was a key mover who led and played with a real warrior attitude every time he was on the pitch.
The two played together in the 1999 RWC.
"He is a great asset and motivates his players and they feel a different vibe and energy with him around," Tabua said.
"But we have to understand he needs his break as well and there are younger guys coming through."
Rauluni has never played against Australia A and would want to make the match a memorable one.
"It will be tough and we will have to be prepared," Rauluni said.
"But the players know that they can do it."