DUBAI // DJ Forbes, the fearsome captain of New Zealand, appeared to be in two minds when he crossed for a vital early score in Saturday's final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Either to thump Alafoti Fa'osiliva, the Samoan defender who had flopped on top of him well after he had touched down, or to deliver his pre-planned celebration routine.
As it was, he settled on a watered-down mixture of the two: first, a looks-could-kill glare at his assailant, followed by an understated swinging of his arms from side to side on the march back to halfway. The rocking the baby celebration has been much aped in the 15 years since Bebeto, Mazinho and Romario from the Brazilian team gave it its most famous airing in football's 1994 World Cup finals in the United States.
Rarely could the tender sentiment have been quite as juxtaposed as it was with the ferocious persona of the 2008 World Sevens Player of the Year. His shaved head bore the scars of two days of unrelenting competition, but the ultra-competitive Forbes still did a good line in doting fatherliness. "I did the celebration, but I don't really want to be rocking him, I want to be playing with him by the time I get home," said the triumphant captain, who was parted from his three-week-old son Titus by the trip to the UAE. "Even changing nappies, I'm looking forward to it."
Forbes had "Titus" inscribed on the strapping on is left wrist. It is a mode of expression which has become the convention in rugby sevens. His former teammate, Nigel Hunt, always used to take to the field with "Mum" written on his strapping, while William Ryder, the brilliant Fijian who returned to the IRB competition in Dubai this weekend, has a message that he hopes will give him strength Two of Forbes's fellow New Zealand sevens stalwarts also have stories to tell.
Zar Lawrence, who filled in for Forbes as captain when he was injured last year, drew an invisible cross on the turf with the ball when he scored the first of his two tries in the semi-final win over the flamboyant Fiji on Saturday. He also kissed his wrist, and pointed to the sky in tribute to his brother, Wiremu, who died in a car crash while Lawrence was playing for New Zealand at the Hong Kong Sevens earlier this year.
Tomasi Cama, the impish play-maker whose two tries laid the platform for the 24-12 win in the final, was on the same page as Forbes. He tapped his wristband each time he scored, on which the name of his 11-month-old daughter, Livia, was marked out in felt-tip. "I think we are getting old," joked Cama, the 29-year-old half-back. There is a fair chance little Livia might turn out to be a Black Ferns player, given the talent for sevens rugby that is floating around her gene pool. Cama is the son of Tomasi Cama Sr, a member of the great "Flying Fijian" side who went a long way to establishing sevens as such a popular spectator sport. Which begs the question, how did Cama Jr end up wearing the colours of New Zealand?
"I went over from Fiji to New Zealand with my dad to play in a sevens tournament in Palmerston North," he said. "I met up with one of my uncles and he wanted me to stay so I said I would stay with him. I was 22 when Titch [Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand coach] saw me playing in a tournament and he told me I was in the picture for his team. I went off and tried to work hard to make his team. "Fiji knew about me, too, but in the end it was a decision I had to make. I was living in New Zealand so I chose to play for them.
"If I was in Fiji I would probably have played for them, but I was in New Zealand. I also had to look at the financial side as well and decide what was good for me." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org