THE heroic achievements of the late Sanivalati Laulau had inspired one of best open-side flankers in world rugby.
Legendary All Blacks Michael Jones accredited the former Flying Fijian for inspiring his rugby career while growing up in Te Atatu South, a suburb in the west of Auckland.
Jones recalled that Laulau was a Pacific hero and one of his favourite players during his childhood rugby days.
He said former Samoan rugby forward Taufusi Salesa and Laulau were two of his favourites. Salesa was a former Samoan rugby sevens coach.
"When I was growing up, Laulau was one of my Pacific heroes. There were about three or four Pacific heroes at that time but Laulau and Taufusi Salesa were my best," Jones said.
Laulau was best known for his speed and rugby skills that entertained the world during his rugby days. And his stars were a light to the young Jones who later revolutionised the open-side flanker position with his physicality, his fitness and his ball skills.
"And Laulau was probably my number one. I just heard that he passed away recently and I was very shocked and sad to hear about the news."
"Those two (Laulau and Salesi) have always been our inspiration. He (Laulau) was one was one of my favourites when I was growing up," the superstar said.
He also mentioned Flying Fijian 2007 Rugby World Cup star Akapusi Qera who now plys his trade with English giants Gloucester Rugby Club.
"When I look at the Fiji team now, I always like the look of Qera, the loose forward who plays for Gloucester. I am really impressed with that guy," he said.
"Fiji should try to clone players of Qera's calibre."
With the modernised game, Jones advised upcoming loose forwards to be as skilful and fast as backline players but to be a powerful ball carrier and aggressive defender if they want to be future stars.
Jones added former New Zealand 7s international and giant Fijian winger Joeli Vidiri was one of his best teammates.