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Fiji captain Akapusi Qera grateful for chance to play rugby ahead of cricket

Akapusi Qera will lead Fiji's bid to spoil England's World Cup party on Friday night, thankful once again his village elders let him quit cricket as a teenager.

Lau Cricket Club will come to a standstill when Qera leads Fiji's Cibi war dance to open the 2015 World Cup by facing hosts England at Twickenham.

Had Lau's elders' council denied his request to give up the village's traditional sport of cricket and chase a rugby scholarship in New Zealand, Qera may never have forged a Test career.

Qera's father represented Fiji at cricket, and the Montpellier flanker explained how he became one of the first from his village to push for a career in rugby.

"Cricket is the traditional family game and the game in my village too," the 31-year-old told Press Association Sport.

"I would have been expected to continue with cricket and stop rugby, but I convinced them to let my try out rugby, whether it would work or not.

"No-one really played rugby, but once I started to progress they saw potential.

"Friday night is a massive, massive opportunity for Fiji.

"We've been picked for this squad for a reason, and that reason is to play against England and do all we can to topple them on their home ground.

"This World Cup in England is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: we're not going to let it pass us by."

Refusing to let rugby pass him by, Qera quit cricket and switched from Suva Grammar School to New Zealand's prestigious Wanganui Collegiate School.

Two years at the alma mater of the All Blacks' 1987 World Cup-winning captain David Kirk later, Qera returned to Fiji and broke into the under-20s squad.

A single season with Fiji club Coastal Stallions was enough to alert Birmingham and Solihull - and one campaign there won Qera a move to Gloucester.

The wrecking-ball back-rower's destructive tackling earned him near-immediate cult status among the Cherry and Whites' exacting aficionados.

Qera played alongside England World Cup men Ben Morgan and Jonny May at Kingsholm, becoming famed in Premiership circles for chuckling to himself ahead of flying out of the defensive line to perform a punishing tackle.

Number eight Morgan has already warned England what to expect, but the majority of Stuart Lancaster's players have most likely already fallen prey to what follows that low-key laugh.

When Fiji pitch up at Twickenham on Friday, Qera will be intent on shuddering some bones - but is adamant his side are in town to cause an upset, not just jangle some nerves.

"I think all of us in the Fiji squad have come a long way in our careers," Qera said, ahead of Friday's tournament-opening Pool A clash.

"I certainly made a good decision to try rugby; I got into it by watching the 1995 World Cup on TV.

"We've been together for the last 18 months as a squad now, and we've been working hard, always with this World Cup at the back of our minds.

"And I really do believe we can spoil England's party.

"We are not just here to make up the numbers: we're here to stamp our mark on the tournament as well.

"We'll be ready for England."


From Belfast Telegraph