Virimi Vakatawa, a French career in ten dates

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Virimi Vakatawa, a French career in ten dates

2010: arrival in France

Spotted by Sireli Bobo, former whimsical winger of Racing 92, via press articles in Fiji, Virimi Vakatawa arrives in France in the Paris region at only 18 years old. He then knows nothing of France, and sharpens his physical condition.

January 14, 2011: first match in France

The young Fijian prodigy is making his debut in the Racingmen jersey. Placed as second center, he played his first minutes in Clermont as part of the European Cup, and also experienced his first defeat at the same time (28-17).

2014: he obtains French nationality

While Racing 92 did not keep him, Virimi Vakatawa rebounded on the side of rugby 7. He joined the French team of the specialty in 2014 after obtaining French nationality the same year and quickly stood out. The now Franco-Fijian signs a two-year federal contract.

February 6, 2016: first selection with the fifteen of France

This is a first in the history of French rugby: a rugby 7s player makes the bridge with the XV. Two years after his naturalization, Virimi Vakatawa made his big debut at the same time as those of Guy Novès, the new coach. Established on the wing against Italy (23-21), he scored his first try in the 15th minute and was voted man of the match. At the end of the tournament, he was named among the twelve contenders for the title of best player of the edition.

Virimi Vakatawa during his first selection for the France team, against Italy on February 6, 2016. (P. Lahalle/L’Equipe)

August 10, 2016: no medal at the Rio Olympics

Virimi Vakatawa quickly became the key player for the French rugby sevens team. In 2015, France finished third overall in the World Series. Strong in their certainties, the French arrive at the Olympic Games in Rio with the ambition of winning a medal. They are surprised by the speed of the Japanese, 15th world nation only, in the quarter-finals (12-7) and leave Brazil without the slightest charm.

November 12, 2016: first hat-trick in Blue

Back in the XV, Virimi Vakatawa finds his wing during the series of autumn test matches. Against Samoa, in Toulouse, the Blues achieve a card and an exciting performance (52-8). Often well served, the winger scored his first hat-trick with the Blues and seemed to prove Guy Novès right.

2019-2020: one of the very best

In two seasons, from 2018 until 2020, Virimi Vakatawa dazzles the rugby planet and becomes feared by all defenses. A true avoidance player, the center three-quarter scored 17 tries in 25 matches in 2018-2019 with Racing 92, then 7 in 13 matches the following season. More than the line of statistics, he gradually becomes the fatal weapon of the XV of France with Antoine Dupont thanks to his power and his physical means above the average, and takes part in the 2019 World Cup as a holder. Vakatawa is then considered the best center in the world.

October 17, 2020: second defeat in the European Cup final

At the end of a season disrupted by the Covid-19, Racing 92 obtains its ticket at the expense of Saracens (19-15) to play its third European Cup final in four years (2016, 2018, 2020). The second for Virimi Vakatawa, who was not at the club during the premiere of the Ile-de-France club.

At the end of the most prolific final in history with eight tries, the Altoséquanais lost once again after a crazy scenario: 15 against 14, at the end of the match and when they had only A point behind, the Racingmen came close to scoring the winning try, in vain, without Finn Russell being able to attempt a drop. Virimi Vakatawa will never win any title, since he will not participate in the Grand Slam des Bleus in 2022.

July 9, 2022: his last match

Selected for the summer tour of the XV of France in Japan, the Franco-Fijdian center disputes the two tests of the Blues, all won. But Virimi Vakatawa does not seem to regain his skills which made him one of the best players in the world, and delivers two lackluster performances. Jostled like his teammates during the second test, he saw the France team get out of it thanks to an inspiration from Baptiste Couilloud ten minutes from the end of the match (15-20). His 32nd and last selection.

September 5, 2022: announcement of his ban on playing in France

The news falls on Monday: the medical commission of the League prohibits Virimi Vakatawa from continuing his career in France, at the age of only 30. In club, he will have known only one tunic throughout his career. Absent against Castres on Saturday (25-19), the Fijian will no longer make racing supporters dream of his offloads and interval shots.

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