Find out more about a star of both sevens and 15s
Who is Virimi Vakatawa: Ten things you should know about the France centre
Virimi Vakatawa made his debut for France against Italy in the 2016 Six Nations and marked the occasion with a try. Here are a few more facts about the star centre…
Ten things you should know about Virimi Vakatawa
1. Virimi Vakatawa was born on 1 May 1992 in Rangiora, New Zealand, and was then raised in Fiji. He stands at 6ft 2in (1.87m) and weighs 15st 6lb (99kg).
2. He moved to France in 2010 to join Racing 92 and qualified to represent les Bleus on residency, playing first for the sevens team in 2013 and then making his 15s debut in 2016.
3. Racing are the only professional club Vakatawa has played for, although he has had two stints there – either side of a spell when he was contracted to the France sevens squad (2013-16).
It was reported in 2020 that Premiership club Gloucester had made a ‘colossal offer’ to sign Vakatawa but they were left disappointed as he agreed a new deal with Racing.
4.Vakatawa represented France in the sevens competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The team finished seventh overall.
When analysing Vakatawa in Rugby World‘s March 2021 edition, Sean Holley said: “The sevens game requires pace and physical fitness, but it’s also the breeding ground for ball skills, footwork and exploiting space.
“Vakatawa’s ability to step defenders, often multiple times in one sequence, made him a star in that format, coupled with an insatiable appetite to offload and a physicality that enables him to break tackles, make big hits and fend off would-be tacklers.
“Not many players have made the transition from sevens to 15s as successfully as Vakatawa. Moreover, few have had the ability to transcend both codes by effortlessly exploiting the aforementioned skill-set in the sport’s mother format.”
5. Vakatawa had an embarrassing moment in a match between Racing and Toulon in January 2021. Racing’s Teddy Thomas pulled off a brilliant offload to release Vakatawa, but Toulon’s Gabin Villiere tackled him in the in-goal area to dislodge the ball and deny him a try.
6. He was the top try-scorer in the 2018-19 Top 14 season, touching down 13 times, and he was a European Player of the Year nominee in 2020, an award that went to Exeter’s Sam Simmonds.
7. The versatile player is comfortable on the wing and in the centre positions. He won his first 17 Test caps as a winger and his next ten as a centre.
8. He promised his mother shortly before she died that he would be part of France’s 2019 World Cup squad – and kept that promise.
He made his first Test appearance in 18 months in a RWC 2019 warm-up against Italy and played three matches at the tournament itself, scoring two tries.
9. Former Wales international Jamie Roberts was surprised at Vakatawa’s skill levels when he played alongside him at Racing.
He told the Rugby Pass Offload podcast: “I remember Virimi Vakatawa being this academy kid who dropped into training and carved everyone up.
“We’d be doing backs unit sessions and this guy would be just making us all look like idiots. His footwork and his lines. He was young at the time and here he is now, for me one of the world’s best players. It’s brilliant to see how far he has come.”
10. Vakatawa has been described as France’s answer to New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams, who also played sevens and 15s as well as being a master of the offload.
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