Koto’s choice of sport

EVEGREEN hooker Sunia Koto is like a good wine. It tastes fine by age.

The Vodafone Flying Fijians forward is the oldest player in the side, but despite age catching up he continues to raise eyebrows when he dons the famous white jumper with the coconut tree emblem on his chest.

Unlike his forefathers who are renowned for boxing and cricket, Koto said he was probably to be the first from his village in Yadrana, Lakeba, Lau to represent Fiji in rugby.

He said wearing the national shirt had been a humbling experience for him which started from the day he made his debut for Fiji against the New Zealand Maori on June 3, 2005.

Twelve years on, the 37-year-old hooker is still at his best after being named to start against Tonga in their important Pacific Nations Cup battle which also serves as the world cup qualifying from the Oceania region.

Koto was the captain of the Vodafone Flying Fijians side that came from 0-15 down at the break to beat Tonga 23-18 at the ANZ National Stadium in Suva on June 11, 2016

He said he always loved to share his experience with the upcoming boys in the national team at the same time honoured to be given the opportunity to help the team in their quest for a spot in the next world cup.

The France-based hooker also played a vital role for the Ilivasi Tabua-coached team that defeated Wales in their last pool game to qualify for the 2007 RWC quarter- final.

He said he wanted to give his best for all the people of Fiji who had been supporting the team through thick and thin.

Koto said he would dedicate this game to all the people of Fiji.

“It’s always been one of the motivating factors for me is what I can contribute personally to the improvement of Fiji rugby through my involvement,” said Koto.

“I have enjoyed this long journey and I have seen the difference and the changes each year.

“It is always an honour and privilege to play for the Flying Fijians.

“I believe I am the first in our village to represent Fiji in rugby because my village is known mainly for boxing and cricket. I believe I made the right decision instead of boxing or cricket. You just have to be aware of ourselves especially seeing my abilities.

“Cricket was not in my genes and with my built, speed — it inspired me too try out a new sport — rugby instead of boxing. And for this game against Tonga, I am dedicating my game to everyone in Fiji and those supporting the Flying Fijians.

He said the game against Tonga was a crucial one and the players were expecting a tough encounter against their opposition.

“It is very important to the Fiji team as it is a placement to the world cup. First of all we need to qualify and it all comes down to our preparation against Tonga. Our preparation is building up to this game so everybody is pumped and ready for this game — we know the importance of this match to us.”

Koto said the Tongans would be targeting the Fijian forwards and he had faith in his teammates for a good battle against the hosts.

“We know the forward is one important place the Tongans will attack us from.

“The boys are training and preparing for the physical battle upfront and we know they will come hard on us.

“We have been playing each other for a long time now dating back to the late 1920s and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“But come the day, the hour — whoever is prepared mentally, physically and spiritually and executing our respective types of games will eventually come out winners.”

Koto is in semi-retirement after a stint of nine years with Narbonne in France .

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