The Pacific Islanders may have said they had named the strongest team possible for the match against Wales in Cardiff tomorrow, but there was one notable absentee. They open their historic, inaugural tour of the northern hemisphere without one of the most devastating finishers in world rugby - the Fijian flier Rupeni Caucaunibuca.
That is because Caucau, as he is known, claims to have lost his passport and is stuck in France, where he is based. But while he may well have mislaid his passport, it is known that Agen, for whom Caucau plays, objected strongly to him appearing in the opening two fixtures, against Wales and Scotland, of the three-match tour which winds up against Ireland in Dublin.
But since the player's passport is lost, at least for this match, any confrontation between Agen and the International Rugby Board (which sanctioned the tour, which means clubs are obliged to release players for the Tests) has presumably been avoided.
The Saracens lock Simon Raiwalui, the captain of the tourists, said last night: "This is typical of Rupeni. I have captained him before. He is his own man. A bit of a legend. Things happen when he gets the ball, but he has to turn up first."
Despite Caucau's absence the Islanders named a strong team which features seven players from the Guinness Premiership in the starting line-up and two on the replacements' bench.
The backs include two powerful and pacy runners in the London Irish pair Sailosi Tagicakibau and Seilala Mapusua, and they are joined in the three-quarters by Leicester's Seru Rabeni and Wellington's Lome Fa'atau. They also boast a heavyweight second row, with Wasps' Dan Leo partnering Raiwalui while the back row features the former Newcastle loose forward Semo Sititi.Reuse content