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Rupeni for his thoughts...

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Carl Hicks Carl Hicks | 08:22 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006

The first tour of the Northern hemisphere by the Pacific Islanders - the combined forces of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga - was much anticipated.

Before their historic first match in Wales we all looked up that famous line which followed Western Samoa's victory over Wales in the 1991 World Cup - "Thank god we weren't playing the whole of Samoa", rubbed our hands in glee and waited for the bone-crunching tackles and strong running of the Islanders.

But most of all we waited for a rare sighting on the International scene of arguably the greatest talent in world rugby - Fiji's Rupeni Caucaunibuca.

However as so often in recent times we have mostly waited in vain.

The flying Caucau missed the match in Wales after allegedly losing his passport while travelling in the Heineken Cup for his French club Agen.

And we now hear ahead of the game with Ireland that he has gone home for personal reasons.

His 53 minutes on the field against Scotland last weekend though showed us enough to see why he remains the greatest enigma in the game.

He ambled around the field at times, seemingly blissfully unaware of defensive plans and formations, but just three or four times he latched onto the ball at high speed and showed the combination of pace, power and quick feet that first entranced us all at the 2003 World Cup - Jonah Lomu in Gerald Davies's boots.

Seeing his great try against France from that World Cup always makes me smile as a week earlier I'd been contacted out in Australia by one of my best friends who was working as the press officer for Widnes Rugby League Club - my hometown team.

"Can you get a number for the Fiji team manager?" he said "They've got a winger we would like to sign".

I played my part in the cross-code espionage but somehow it never came off. Rupeni it seemed preferred a huge contract with the Auckland Blues to a trip to Widnes to help us fight relegation from Super League.

History shows though that the idea was maybe not that potty. After failing to get an international "transfer" to the All Blacks and with a 12-month ban from Fiji for missing international fixtures Caucau arrived in France not at Toulouse, Biarritz, Perpignan or Stade Francais, but rather at Agen which with no disrespect could well be the Widnes of French club rugby - a club of great tradition but not a current force in the game.

He has become a folk hero in the prune-growing capital of France. He has been top try scorer in the French League for both of his full seasons there, has added about two stones in weight, but still flies like le mistral.

They have also learned patience for the great one in Agen. He has missed many games and the reasons have included contracting a tropical virus back in Fiji, his wife having a severe toothache and homesickness.

His captain in the Pacific Islanders squad Simon Raiwalui perhaps sums him up best: "Rupeni is a legend, but he is also his own man. I'm just grateful when he turns up"

What a shame that he won't be turning up for the last ever international at Lansdowne Road this Sunday when the rest of the Islanders will take on Ireland - his magic could have left a lasting memory before the bulldozers finally move in.

**We'll have live coverage of Ireland v Pacific Islanders (KO 2.45) in Sunday Grandstand along with extensive highlights of England's second match with South Africa.

On Saturday we have an intriguing double bill of live action with Scotland v Australia (KO 2.30) in Grandstand on BBC1 and Wales v New Zealand (KO 5.00) live on BBC2.

***Thanks for your responses to my piece about Argentina perhaps joining the Six Nations. There were many good points made but perhaps the most interesting is the idea raised by a number of writers about an "Americas" tournament pitting Argentina in against Uruguay, Canada and the USA.

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