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In the Spotlight: Semi Radradra

In the Spotlight: Semi Radradra

In the Spotlight: Semi Radradra

Fiji will be bidding to show the world their attacking prowess once again when they compete in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

Drawn in Group B, they begin the campaign with a clash against France before facing Italy and Scotland on a mission to showcase the talent they have.

At last year’s Rugby World Cup, the Fijians led Australia 21-12 during their pool match with 46 minutes on the clock and they will hope to reproduce that same form again.

Vern Cotter was named as Fiji head coach earlier in 2020 but this is the first time the former Scotland coach take charge of his side in a match because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His 32-man squad for the tournament contained a mixture of youth and experience but Cotter stated he wouldn’t name his captain until he’d met up with the group.

And the man given the task of leading his side is Semi Radradra.

Leadership role

The Bristol Bears back was thought to be unavailable for this competition after he limped off the field in their European Challenge Cup final victory against Toulon with a hamstring injury.

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Initially, the prognosis was that Radradra would be out until the end of November, however, the 28-year-old is used to confounding expectations and has recovered quicker than expected.

And after training with the squad, Cotter chose the explosive centre, who has ten Fiji caps, to lead from the front as they seek to repeat their 21-17 win over France in 2018 in their opening game.

Reflecting on the moment he was told, Radradra said: “Honestly, I couldn’t believe it when he [Cotter] told me. I felt the tears rise. It’s a huge honour and a privilege (to be captain). 

“I was so surprised. I have barely ten caps with this team. It happened quickly.

“I couldn’t refuse, but I immediately told him that I needed other guys to lead this team, to support me. We have some great guys here and I won’t do anything if I’m alone.”

Humble beginnings

When Radradra was a teenager, he worked down the Vatukoula gold mines for two dollars an hour for eight months in the build-up to the 2011 Junior Rugby World Cup in Italy.

A photograph of him in action during that U20 tournament ended up in Radradra being spotted and recruited by NRL club Parramatta Eels, who asked him whether he wanted to play rugby league.

In his 94 appearances for the side, Radradra scored 82 tries and played for the Eels from 2013 to 2017 until he made the decision to switch to rugby union.

He played for Toulon for one season and then another two at Bordeaux Begles before making the move to Bristol in the summer, having signed a three-year deal at Ashton Gate.

Star power

Despite only arriving in July, Radradra proved to be a hit at Bristol straight away, lighting up the Premiership and helping his side clinch a top four spot.

But it wasn’t just in the league where Radradra made his mark. In the final of the European Challenge Cup, the back played a huge role in creating Harry Randall’s try after 15 seconds.

The score was quickest ever in a European final as Bristol went on to lift the title.

Now with the Autumn Nations Cup fast approaching, the new Fijian captain is grateful for the chance to lead his country and hopes his side can prove they’re worth their place.

“We will be ready to face anyone,” said Radradra, who made his rugby union debut for Fiji against Georgia in 2018. “We are lucky to be here to participate in this great competition.

“It has been a long time since Fiji has faced so many prestigious opponents one week after another.

“We don’t want to let this opportunity pass by, and show everyone that we deserve our place in this tournament.

“We trained hard and insisted on taking ownership of our game system. We have a new coach, new staff and new players, some of whom are very young who bring new energy.

“We still have a lot of work to do to be competitive, but we will get there.”

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