The back-five forward was a latecomer to rugby but has been quick to make an impact

Get to know Samoa’s Chris Vui

Chris Vui was 18 when he first started playing rugby but within a few years he had become Samoa’s youngest-ever captain, leading the team out against Scotland in 2017 aged just 24. Here he tells his story…

I grew up in a tight community. My mum and dad came over to New Zealand from Samoa and I grew up in the west of Auckland. The area we lived in had a bad reputation and back then there used to be a lot of violence, but all my family were there. It was a Pacific Islands area and I’d spend lots of time with my cousins. When I was a baby I probably went back to Samoa two times and in my high-school years we’d go back every year. I love the country.

There was a lot of Samoan culture in my childhood. There was the food obviously – lots of taro. We’d have huge gatherings and do a lot of things with the Samoan Methodist Church. There would be fund-raisers and we’d play kilikiti, Samoan cricket. I was really close with my friends from church and we still keep in touch.

Get to know Samoa’s Chris Vui

Time for prayer: Chris Vui and Paul Alo-Emile at the World Cup (Getty Images)

I haven’t found a church in Bristol but me and my partner pray at home, and we have sessions at the club where we can open up about anything. It’s great to have that faith in the squad.

Watch: Meet the Pacific Islanders at Bristol

I played all sorts of sport growing up. I played cricket for the Massey High School first XI, a bit of volleyball, basketball, soccer. All these things were when I was hanging out with my mates and weren’t anything serious.

I didn’t play rugby until my late teens. The boys I was closest with growing up went to Waitemata (RFC) and I went with them to play for the U19s, then got picked by the premier (first) team. I was picked up by some scouts, played for New Zealand U20 and everything snowballed from there.

I was working as an apprentice carpenter. And at the same time I got an ITM Cup contract with North Harbour – it’s semi-pro.

I loved being in New Zealand but I wanted to do something for myself, to explore. I asked the question to my agent (about playing overseas) and Worcester picked me up. It was only for six months but I thought if I played well someone else would pick me up and Bristol did.

Moving overseas made me grow up in a way. I’m so close to my family, then I had to live by myself in a whole new country. I had to get everything sorted off the field and play rugby at the same time – that was probably the hardest thing. Luckily some boys knew other boys from back home, so that made it a lot easier.

Get to know Samoa’s Chris Vui

In the thick of it: Chris Vui in action against Russia at Japan 2019 (Getty Images)

Playing for Samoa is definitely the best decision I ever made. I was approached by Samoa in my last year at North Harbour and I decided to commit to them. It’s a privilege to play for Samoa, to be part of Samoa’s history and part of the Samoa jersey. It’s pretty hard to explain and put into words, but to get that chance means a lot.

I giggled when I was named Samoa captain! It was a surprise. It was in a meeting and I was thinking, ‘What’s happening? I only got into the squad a year ago and now I’m captain.’ After a few seconds, I sat back to take it all in.

I knew I had to step up because it’s the biggest job in the Samoa jersey. It’s a huge honour. I’m action over words, respect everyone – that’s how I lead.

Steve Jackson was my coach at North Harbour. The November tour was his first as Samoa coach and I was injured, but he tells the boys what he wants. I’m excited by the ideas he brings to the table.

We can surprise people at the World Cup. A lot of teams probably think we’re a physical side, but we know the game’s evolved and you’ve got to change it up. There’s a lot more kicking in international rugby, a lot more set-piece, so it’s not just razzle. We’re naturally talented in flair, but a bit of structure is also what’s needed.

Get to know Samoa’s Chris Vui

Honour: Chris Vui in action for the Barbarians (Getty Images)

Playing for the Barbarians is a huge honour. Growing up in New Zealand and seeing the way they play, the jersey, the world-class players they have, was awesome. I always dreamed of playing for them but I didn’t think I’d make the squad at this age. To do it at this point of my career was huge.

I’ve never had too many hobbies but I do a bit of painting. Now and then I pop to Hobbycraft to get some paints and a canvas. I’ve been asked to do portraits by team-mates, but I tell them to come round with the materials for me and no one has. After rugby I might try to do something that involves some sort of art and building, maybe architecture.

Me and my partner, Karen, are high-school sweethearts. We were in the same class so we’ve known each other for a long time. We have a little girl, Kaylen, and I hang out with my family as much as I can.

This article originally appeared in the October issue of Rugby World magazine.

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