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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Raiwalui on life after Fiji
By Matt Majendie

RAIWALUI FACTFILE
Simon Raiwalui
Fiji will miss Raiwalui's prowess in the lineouts
DOB: 8/9/74
Position: Lock
Club: Saracens
Test caps: 41
Former clubs: Newport, Sale, Manly
Test debut: 14/6/97 v New Zealand
Last Test: 24/11/02 v Scotland
When Fiji line up for the World Cup, one of their biggest names will be missing from the starting XV.

This summer, lock Simon Raiwalui, one of the stars of the last World Cup in arguably the tournament's best lineout pairing, announced his retirement from international rugby at the age of 28.

His decision delighted both his family and his new club Saracens, but it leaves a gaping hole in a Fijian pack which continually cries out for direction.

Fiji have to overcome Raiwalui's absence as well as France, Scotland, Japan and the USA to book their place in the knockout stages of the tournament.

But the new Saracens lock has every confidence in his former team-mates.

He told the BBC Sport website: "I'd definitely put money on Fiji going through. Man for man they're as talented as any team on their day in the world.

"They have the best backline in the world."

Among that backline is the electric Rupeni Caucaunibuca, who Raiwalui hailed as a "pocket battleship", fellow wing Sekove Leawere and centres Aisea Tuilevu and Seru Rabeni.

Although the majority of the Fijian backline played in the Super 12 this season, Raiwalui warned his country's World Cup chances would be defined by their pack.

He added: "They have a vast amount of experience and talent in their backline and it's all about good quality ball to those players.

"It depends on whether the forward pack can get parity with leading nations. If they scrummage well and do the basics well, they should do well.

I don't think I'll be able to watch Fiji play because I've still got a deep desire to play
Simon Raiwalui struggles with retirement

"The surfaces will play a big part and will suit the Fijian boys. It's quite warm at that time of year and it'll be a hard running track. Our boys will be used to that."

Although Raiwalui will be cheering on his countrymen from their opening game against France on 11 October, he will not be keeping too close an eye on proceedings.

He explained: "I don't think I'll be able to watch Fiji play because I've still got a deep desire to play. I think the more I watch it, the more I read the results, the more I'll want to go back.

"I will watch out for the results but will switch off as much as possible."

The decision to retire is still fresh in Raiwalui's mind, which was taken with his wife and two sons, aged six and three, in mind.

Joking it was better than being divorced by his wife for spending another six months away from home, he insists the decision was eventually an easy one.

"It is one of the greatest honours representing your country," he added. "But for the last six years, I had been travelling away and staying at hotels while my wife and kids are stuck in Britain.

"My wife needs support and my kids need their dad. In the end it was actually an easy choice."

His team-mates may yet disagree when they line up against the likes of Scott Murray and Fabien Pelous in the lineouts.





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