x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai could be hello for returning Fijian back Caucau

Rupeni Caucaunibuca, arguably the world's most exciting rugby union player, could end his spell in the international wilderness by playing in Dubai next month.

DUBAI // Rupeni Caucaunibuca, arguably the world's most exciting rugby union player, could end his spell in the international wilderness by playing in Dubai next month. Fiji's legendary coach, Waisale Serevi, made a personal visit to the enigmatic Caucau earlier this season in an attempt to coax the fallen idol back into the game.

Caucau, 27, has barely played since leaving Agen in France in February, but Serevi wants him back for Fiji's tilt at the IRB World Series, which starts in the Emirates. The jet-heeled back is as famous for his erratic behaviour as he is for his phenomenal running ability. He announced himself as rugby's greatest game-breaker with a sensational display at the 2003 World Cup - even though he was suspended for part of the tournament due to serious foul play.

On the back of that showing, he secured a big-money move from Super 14 giants Auckland Blues to the French side Agen. However, his five-year spell in the Top 14 was fraught with problems. He frequently went awol, earned a three-month ban for cannabis use last year - when the club were relegated from the Top 14 - and was finally released from his contract, officially because of injury, in February when his club lost patience.

He resurfaced playing the occasional game for his local club, Tailevu, in the Fijian league which prompted Serevi's approach and subsequent call-up to his sevens training squad. However, the maverick winger's absence record has been so poor that he has since been axed from the Fiji squad by their national coaching director Ilivasi Tabua. Nevertheless, Serevi refuses to give up on Caucau, and will push for his inclusion - along with fellow absentee Lemeki Duidomo - in the coming days.

Serevi said: "I will be meeting with FRU this week to hold talks on the issue as the two players hold a wealth of experience and were key members of my squad. "As far as I am concerned, they are still on my mind and will be given the chance to represent the national team provided they meet the selection criteria. "Rupeni is a world-class winger. They performed well during the trials and also attended the fitness tests we had arranged for the squad.

"I will try to seek answers as to why they were not considered." If Serevi does earn a reprieve for Caucau, then fans travelling to The Sevens next month are likely to be treated to brilliance on the field. Fiji have long been considered one of the most watchable sides in rugby's abbreviated form, and that was accentuated this summer when Serevi announced he was returning as head coach of the team.

Serevi, the greatest ever sevens player, served briefly as Taiwan head coach before heading back to his homeland. Indeed, his return to Fiji nearly did not happen after the FRU refused to accede to his wish to remain a playing member of the squad. Serevi, now aged 40, eventually agreed. Even without his playing skills, sevens benefits from his very presence according to Beth Coalter, the IRB's tournament operations manager.

"We are very pleased to see that he is back," said Coalter. "I think Fiji missed him over the last year, and he is coming back as coach. "I think Serevi has found it hard not to actually get on the field to get his message across. "I think we will see a difference in the team now he is back. "They are keen to get that Rugby World Cup [to be played in Dubai in March] back." pradley@thenational.ae