Leicester pay tribute as former Tigers and Fiji player Seru Rabeni dies aged 37
Former Leicester and Fiji centre Seru Rabeni has died at the age of 37, the Aviva Premiership club have announced.
The Bua-born backline powerhouse represented Fiji in the 2002 Commonwealth Games' Rugby Sevens in Manchester and joined Leicester from New Zealand outfit Highlanders two years later.
Rabeni's career at Welford Road was plagued by injuries and, after a move to Gloucester collapsed, he signed for Leeds Carnegie in 2009.
Leicester will hold a minute's applause in Sunday's Aviva Premiership match against Saracens at Welford Road for their two-time league winner, who scored 18 tries in 63 club appearances.
"Seru was a lovely, lovely man, he was extremely friendly, very popular among all the players and the staff," said Leicester Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen.
"He always had a smile on his face. He always made light of even difficult situations. He generally brought warmth to the training ground and the whole of Welford Road."
Reports from Fiji say Rabeni passed away at his Nausori home while having breakfast. He had recently recovered from illness, according to fijivillage.com.
Super Rugby club Highlanders tweeted: "Saddened to hear of the passing of Seru Rabeni today, our thoughts are with your family. #Highlander92"
He earned 30 caps for Fiji, scoring 10 points, and also represented the Pacific Islanders combined international team that played from 2004 to 2008.
Leicester CEO Cohen hailed Rabeni's devastating mix of power and pace that proved integral to the Tigers' 2007 and 2009 Premiership title triumphs.
"He was a fantastic player, he had the amazing combination of guile, a quick step and huge physicality," said Cohen.
"Those who saw the 2007 Premiership Final will never forget his performance that day."