Seru Rabeni: Former Leicester Tigers, Leeds and Fiji rugby player dies, aged 37

Rabeni, who made 30 appearances for his country, died at his home in Fiji on Tuesday

Former Leicester Tigers and Fiji international rugby union player Seru Rabeni has died at the age of 37, it has been confirmed.

The bruising Fijian centre, who made a name for his powerful runs and big tackles, died at his home in Nakasi on Tuesday. His cause of death is unknown.

Reports in Fiji claimed that Rabeni had recently recovered from being sick after a lengthy illness.

Rabeni made 63 Premiership appearances for the Tigers during a spell between 2004 and 2009, where he quickly grew into a fan favourite due to his physical nature and ability to score having racked up 18 tries, and he was part of the sides that won the Premiership title in 2006/07 and 2008/09.

He won 30 caps for Fiji, scoring two tries for his country, and represented them at the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and 2007. Rabeni also represented the Barbarians as well as the Pacific Islanders, made up of players from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, on nine occasions.

As well as Leicester, Rabeni represented the Otago Highlanders in New Zealand and played for Leeds for two years before moving to France to join La Rochelle in the Top 14. Rabeni ended his professional career in 2013 after spending a season with Mont-de-Marsan in the second tier of French rugby.

Rabeni made over 90 appearances for Leicester between 2004 and 2009
Rabeni was part of the Leicester sides that won the Premiership in 2007 and 2009

Following his retirement, Rabeni moved into coaching and was named assistant coach for American college rugby side Linderwood University in St Louis, before taking up a role with Hong Kong side Discovery Bay Pirates in September 2014.

Former Australia international Lote Tuqiri, who was born in Fiji, expressed his sadness on Twitter after hearing of Rabeni’s passing. He said: "Man just heard the news of Fijian and @LeicesterTigers legend Seru Rabeni passing this morning in Fiji. A great man taken way too young @ 37".

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, the former Gloucester centre, said: “Stunned! RIP Seru Rabeni. Absolutely hated every minute playing against you constantly smashing and stepping me. One of the Pacific Greats.”

Saracens and former Scotland international lock Jim Hamilston said: “Really sad waking Up to hear that my ex team mate @LeicesterTigers Seru Rabeni has passed away in Fiji. Incredible player and lovely man.”

Rabeni is believed to have died from a suspected cardiac arrest.